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June 03, 2010   Email to Friend 

Jamie Creamer
(334) 844-2783
June 03, 2010

AUBURN, Ala. -- Professionals in the fields of soil, water, agriculture and the environment soon will have the opportunity to earn graduate degrees from Auburn University from their homes and workplaces.

An online distance education graduate degree program developed through Auburn's Department of Agronomy and Soils to help professionals refresh their scientific knowledge and earn master's or doctoral degrees has officially received final approval, said Dennis Shannon, an agronomy and soils professor who has led the effort to establish the program.

The department began developing the proposal about three years ago, after a survey indicated professionals in agribusiness, the turfgrass and golf course industries and agricultural, conservation, natural resource and environmental agencies who have full-time jobs and don't live near colleges that offer similar courses of study were interested in taking classes and earning advanced degrees. The courses included in the new degree program should appeal to professionals not only in those fields but in construction, environmental management and sustainable agriculture as well.

Department of Agronomy and Soils faculty who will be teaching the numerous online courses include Shannon and fellow professors David Weaver, Edzard van Santen and Beth Guertal, along with associate professor Gobena Huluka and assistant professor Julie Howe. The agronomy and soils department also hopes to work with the University of Florida and other institutions that offer appropriate online courses that will count toward master's and doctoral degrees in agriculture and science.

Although distance-learning classes already are available through the College of Agriculture's poultry science and fisheries and allied aquacultures departments, agronomy and soils is the first to offer them as part of a full-fledged graduate degree program.

Leslie Keeler, a distance learning specialist in Auburn's Distance Learning and Outreach Technology office who has worked with Shannon to get classes online and under way, said the classes, which are pre-recorded as video or audio sessions, can be downloaded and may include PowerPoint presentations and virtual laboratories, though the basic soil science course does require on-campus lab work that students can complete in one two-day visit that can be scheduled on weekends or week days.

Course assignments will be submitted online, and students will interact with professors via e-mail, phone or video conferencing.

As part of our mission as a land-grant institution we are supposed to reach out to the public and this is one of the ways that we can reach out beyond Alabama's borders," Keeler said.

Cost for the agronomy and soils courses is $292 per credit hour for undergraduate-level classes and $330 per credit hour for graduate courses. Students interested in enrolling for a degree should begin the process soon, although students can take courses for degree credit up to two semesters before officially enrolling in Auburn's graduate school program.

To learn more, visit ag.auburn.edu/agrn/distancelearning or contact Megan Ross at mhr0001@auburn.edu or (334) 844-3201.

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