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A Virtual Graduation and a Real Degree

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(ARA) - Like a lot of other MBA students, Carla Wright-Jukes will be celebrating her graduation this spring. But unlike most, her commencement exercises -- from the keynote speaker, to the degree conferment, to the reception -- will be held online via Webcast. Wright-Jukes, 43, is graduating from Jones International University (JIU), the first fully online, accredited university.

The unusual graduation ceremony, which will take place on May 20 at 11 a.m. EST, will feature remarks by commencement keynote speaker Aleksander Kwasniewski, president of the Republic of Poland.

For the students, the cyber ceremony is in keeping with their day-to-day experience with the school. JIU students attend their classes, talk with faculty, and work with groups on projects -- all online. “It was the best thing I ever could have done,” says Wright-Jukes, about her choice to pursue an online degree. “I am a single mom of two and I work full-time, so convenience was an absolute necessity.”

A business analyst for GlaxoSmithKline, Wright-Jukes wanted the job security that an additional degree would give her, but needed to find a way to fit her class work around her professional and family responsibilities. “I got up really early before my kids woke up, and then fit in some more when I got home.

The flexibility was great. One day there was 21 inches of snow and I never had to think ‘I can’t get to class.’” More than just flexible, Wright-Jukes found her program to be academically challenging. “It’s a very aggressive, intense program. There is a misconception that online learning is easy and that is just not true.”

Wright-Jukes also found the online learning experience meaningful in another way: “The Web environment facilitates the pure quest of knowledge,” she said. “It is a learning environment that is devoid of visual filters that at times create unfair barriers. You are rated on the quality of your work only.” Graduating student Susan Briscoe, 47, who was in the Bachelor of Arts in Business Communication program, found that sharing classes with international students was a highlight of her online experience.

“One of my best memories is of discussing global economics with students in Denmark and China,” Briscoe commented. “There is nothing like being able to debate different world views with people actually living in the countries we were studying.” Adds Wright-Jukes, “My marketing professor was in Ireland, my thesis project partner was in Germany and the other students were from all over the world. It really enriches the learning experience.”

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