St. Francis College's First Fully Online Degree Program Latest Step in Years-Long Online Education Strategy

Leah Schmerl


St. Francis College is now enrolling students in its first fully online degree program, marking another step in the College's years-long strategy to integrate state-of-the-art online learning in its curriculum.

A Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science is the inaugural program St. Francis College Online, a new online learning destination that will allow students to earn SFC degrees remotely in a range of emerging fields with strong job prospects.

"While the current COVID-19 has brought much attention on distance learning, St. Francis College has focused on this modality for years, rooted in our commitment to increase access to job-focused education for non-traditional students," said Gale Gibson Gayle, Ed.D., SFC's Associate Vice President of Online Learning and Program Development.

"St. Francis College Online is built for people whose life situations -- those with job or family commitments -- may make in-person college untenable, and for individuals looking for flexible degree programs that can propel them into 21st-century professions."

The B.S. in Exercise and Movement prepares students for careers in fitness and wellness, personal training, cardiac rehabilitation and sport coaching, among other fields. The program consists of 121 credit hours in general education, and liberal arts and sciences, as well as discipline-specific hours in courses that include community health, designing health promotion programs, kinesiology, motor learning, and sports psychology.

Fitness trainers and instructor careers are projected to grow 13 percent (2018-2028) and boast a median salary of $40,390, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"From the innovative courses our new online program offers to the experienced faculty who teach them, we're excited to offer the distance learning modality as a way for students who are busy working professionals to complete their degree in this in-demand field," said Jennifer Lancaster, Ph.D., SFC Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean.

Under the leadership of Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D., who joined as its President in 2017, St. Francis College created an Online Learning Task Force charged with putting in place initiatives that set up its faculty, staff and students to succeed in an educational landscape in which distance learning -- supported by new, cutting-edge technologies -- is increasingly popular.

Last year, the College debuted its Online Faculty Training Certification Course that provides its faculty a rigorous five-week curriculum of workshops and one-on-one guidance. It ensures faculty master best practices to develop engaging online course content and facilitate student and instructor interaction, by leveraging all the technological resources available to them.

By September 2020, most of College's faculty will have completed certification through the Summer Online Faculty Training Institute -- or demonstrate equivalent skills -- a requirement to instruct SFC online courses.

On June 17, 2020, Middle States Commission on Higher Education – St. Francis College's accreditation body – approved the College's application that it submitted in February 2020 to add distance learning into its curriculum, allowing it to offer fully-accredited online degrees.

In the coming months, St. Francis College Online will roll out additional undergraduate and graduate online degree programs. Generally, the programs will be offered exclusively online and will be oriented towards readying students to compete for jobs powering the global economy for the next decade and beyond.

This fall, most of St. Francis College's standard courses will also be instructed online, ensuring the College complies with health guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Exercise and Movement degree course content was developed by subject matter experts within St. Francis College faculty, including those in the Education, Health, and Liberal Arts fields. Relearnit, the online program management company, provided instructional design services, as well as marketing and recruiting.

The first cohort begins on September 9, 2020. To learn more or to apply, visit online.sfc.edu.