The College of Charleston is launching several new academic programs for the 2018-19 school year, including a new Bachelor of General Studies degree program and the College’s first-ever fully online graduate degree.

Housed in the School of Professional Studies (SPS), the new Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) aims to serve three types of students: former CofC students who didn’t finish their degree; former students from other colleges who didn’t finish a degree; and currently enrolled traditional students who have been at the College three or more years, but are not near degree completion for their chosen major.

“One of the hopes is that this will prevent frustrated traditional students from simply dropping out,” says SPS Dean Godfrey Gibbison. “And it will allow former students who didn’t complete their degree to take advantage of previously earned credits or transferable hours.”

The BGS program differs from a traditional degree program in one key way: rather than requiring students to complete a major, students must complete two minors along with 24 hours of 300-level or higher course work.

That difference, says Gibbison, may provide students a faster path to earn a degree.

Another key component of the BGS degree is that it is available entirely online for students who choose to earn minors in communication, psychology, sociology, business administration or healthcare management. Gibbison says students may choose to earn any one of the College’s more than 70 minors. Many of those courses, however, are not available online and will have to be taken in a traditional classroom setting.

Students who are local to the Charleston area can pursue a combination of online and traditional courses.

“We want this (class format) to be the choice of the student,” says Gibbison.

Students who pursue a BGS will also have to build a portfolio as part of a capstone requirement. The portfolio will include components such as writing samples, class projects and research that could be relevant to employers.

“We want students to be able to articulate to employers what they are learning through this degree,” says Gibbison.

While it’s not technically a new degree, the fact that the College’s Master of Education in Languages ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program will be completely online this academic year is new. In fact, it’s the first all-online master’s degree offered by the Graduate School of the University of Charleston, South Carolina.

Silvia Rodriguez Sabater, associate professor in Hispanic Studies and the former program director of the M.Ed. Program in Languages, says several courses for the master’s degree were already online, so it made sense to make the ESOL track solely available online to better serve working K-12 teachers and to attract more students.

“The ESOL program has been teaching a number of hybrid (online and face-to-face) courses for a while,” says Sabater, noting that with support from School of Languages, Culture and World Affairs Dean Timothy Johnson, the decision was made to take the program entirely online. “We thought it was appropriate to do that.”

Emily Beck, associate professor of Hispanic Studies and the current director of the M.Ed. Program in Languages, says the move will also help serve prospective students who may live outside of the Charleston area or out of the country.

“An online ESOL program is a program that allows you to be teaching English abroad and be taking these courses as you are abroad,” says Beck, noting that ESOL is increasingly a field that extends beyond the traditional application of teaching international students in an educational setting. Businesses are hiring ESOL directors, as well, to help facilitate the transition of foreign employees. “This online master’s degree has the potential to capture students in a way that is more convenient and flexible for them.”

The College’s Master of Arts in Communication is also in the process of transitioning to an online only program. Michael Lee, associate professor and director of graduate studies for communication, says the upcoming year will be a transitional year for the master’s degree, consisting of both online and traditional classes. Students enrolling for fall 2019 will be part of the first fully online class.

The first master’s degree of its kind in South Carolina, the College’s new Master of Data Science and Analytics offers students from any undergraduate program access to an advanced degree in the growing field of data science. Although it won’t begin enrolling students until the summer of 2019, the new graduate degree in data science will focus on machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data and analytics.

“There is no prerequisite degree path,” says Paul Anderson, associate professor and director of the College’s Data Science Program, noting that prospective students who earned bachelor’s degrees in data science, math, business administration or economics, for example, would be a good fit for this master’s program. “Data science is growing across many disciplines and encompasses everything from consumer data to medical records to student records. Businesses in all sectors need people who can manage data, build data-driven intelligent systems, and discover new knowledge.”

Other new academic offerings for the 2018-19 academic year include:

  • A new concentration in computing in the arts, game development and interaction through the Department of Computer Science.
  • A new writing, rhetoric and publication concentration and minor through the Department of English.
  • A new undergraduate mathematics track that will replace the Pure and Applied tracks over the next four years. The new track has fewer hours, offers more flexibility and could be more appealing to students in physics, computer science or chemistry since the new track allows for counting certain courses in those fields toward degree completion.