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CMU Offers Doctor in Audiology Degree Through Distance Learning

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MOUNT PLEASANT - Earning a doctoral degree used to mean long hours, hard work and travel to a university. Today the long hours and hard work still apply, but now it's the university that does the traveling.

The doctor of audiology degree, or Au.D., offered through Central Michigan University, brings the university to the students using distance learning courses.

All of the courses for the distance learning Au.D. are designed and taught by nationally recognized audiologists and master clinicians, says Dan Konkle, program director and member of CMU's audiology faculty. The program, created jointly by CMU and Vanderbilt's Bill Wilkerson Center, meets the needs of professionals who cannot interrupt their careers to attend a traditional on-campus doctoral program.

While the program formally started in September 1999, a pilot cohort of 44 participants completed the first two courses during the previous spring and summer. Each course is taught over 12 weeks with the majority of information delivered over the Internet.

'The format is more doable for me than traditional learning,' says Fran Helfner-Mitchell, a clinical audiologist in Providence, Rhode Island. 'I have four kids. I don't have time to sit in a classroom. I set a goal each week, but if I don't feel like reading one day, I don't have to.

'I've learned so much. I can see the failings of my master's program. You think you're keeping up, but this program is state-of-the-art, cutting-edge. There have been a lot of advances in 22 years,' Helfner-Mitchell said.

Participants and faculty engage in real-time interactive dialogue during scheduled Internet 'chat' sessions. E-mail and electronic bulletin boards also are part of the mix.

'Instructors are available by phone and e-mail at any time,' said Jane Dunay, an educational audiologist in Cleveland. 'Chat rooms are always available, so I can chat with other students at any time. The Web site itself is very efficient and easy to work through.'

CMU's Au.D. program is designed for practitioners, said Konkle. Problem-based learning is an integral part of the program, using simulated patient cases and health delivery problems.

'Some of the information from the first course was immediately applicable to my job,' said Mark Scoones, an Aberdeen, Wash., audiologist.

The Au.D. program is based on a minimum 36-credit-hour sequence. Applicants must have a graduate degree in audiology, with a minimum of five years of professional audiological experience beyond the master's degree. The typical audiologist could complete the degree in two years.

The next doctor in audiology distance learning classes begin in January 2000. For more information, call CMU's Distance Learning Program Office, (800) 950-1144, ext. 3867, e-mail celinfo@mail.cel.cmich.edu, or visit the Web site www.cel.cmich.edu/aud.

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