In 1994, the Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Public Health (CAEPH) launched the first public health degree delivered entirely by distance learning. Back then, the main technology used was video teleconferencing between the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (SPHTM) in New Orleans and a classroom at Hanford site in Richland, Washington. As a part of the Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response (HaMMER) training center project, (now the Volpentest HaMMER Federal Training Center), Tulane delivered the MSPH in Industrial Hygiene to Department of Energy employees in order to build their capability to clean up the Hanford site. Over 35 Handford professionals received their MSPH in Industrial Hygiene through this program.
While working at Hanford on medical surveillance projects, a group from the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) suggested we add a MPH program to train health and safety people in management principles. We added the MPH in Occupational Health and Safety Management in 1998 and moved to a fledging Internet system (with dial up connections) to reach a wider geographic base. Our virtual classroom was designed to mimic the traditional classroom experience, which has been found to be useful in effective teaching and learning. The MPH in Occupational Health (now Occupational and Environmental Health) was added to our programs in 2001 to include physicians and environmental health, as well as other health focused professionals. This rounded out programs for support of the occupational health triad – industrial hygienists, health and safety managers and occupational physicians and nurses. The synergy among these three occupational health degrees is a strength not found elsewhere.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 presented another unique challenge to our programs. Being at ground zero, we saw first-hand the need for people trained in the public health aspects of disaster management. This also provided us with the hands-on experience needed to design a targeted program that covered the public health aspects of disasters. As a result, the MPH in Disaster Management was created and enrolled its first students in 2006. The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010 provided more ‘unwelcomed’ experience, but a great learning opportunity for students in our Disaster Management program.
In 2008, we added graduate certificate programs. We heard you! In the earlier years of our distance learning programs, many professionals told us that they needed further graduate education in one of our fields of expertise, but already had or did not need a full master’s degree. The graduate certificates provide focused education in an area that can serve as a supplement to a prior master’s degree or demonstrate graduate study in one of our areas. These certificates are comprised of graduate level, for credit, courses that could then be applied to a master’s degree in the future, should the student wish.
As we look back, a lot has happened since 1994 and much has changes. Our technology is now high speed internet based and we have a virtual classroom filled with student located across the US and around the world. Our curriculum has evolved to meet today’s challenges, but is still centered on providing high quality education. We have many alumni who have advanced their careers with our master’s degrees or our continued training in certificates. As we continue to grow, we look forward to where our future takes us; who can tell what will come next?
Our SPHTM Distance Learning degrees and certificates can be viewed as being supported by a three-legged stool sitting on a solid foundation: 1) strong curriculum and academic content; 2) Instructional design to adapt the content to a distance format; 3) technical infrastructure and support to deliver the program. All of these rest on a foundation that provides the administrative functions and support for distance learning students and instructors.
The distance learning programs and courses have the same rigor and content as Tulane’s on-campus programs. Tulane prides itself on excellence in education and that includes our distance learning courses. The distance learning instructors have faculty academic qualifications, but also bring extensive professional experience. They are not just ivory tower thinkers, but are the doers in their fields. Additionally, Tulane regularly reviews our curriculum to insure quality.
Instructional designers assist our faculty to adapt their content to distance learning. One of the benefits of this is that we have a full tool box of technical tools that work to enhance learning, even more than in the traditional classroom. This approach helps us to eliminate busy work, but permits us to enhance learning through case studies, discussions, debate and exercises. Our staff insures that your course materials are available and provides help when needed.
Tulane SPHTM has built a robust technical infrastructure to support distance learning. We house a “mothership” with the technical infrastructure and tools needed to succeed in our programs, so all you need is a laptop or other device to reach our classroom and course management system. A real plus is our full-time tech staff who are directly available to support students and instructors. Our virtual campus design and setup also extends your learning experience.
Since you are not on campus, our staff are here to help you and are your primary resource to help with program matters. You can reach and speak to a real person on the phone during business hours or communicate via email with consistency. DLInfo can help you or direct you to the support or services needed. DLDirect provides academic advice and can help you throughout the program. DLTech is invaluable for anything tech.
The SPHTM distance learning programs follows the academic calendar and holds class in real time for about 2½- 3 hours each week for each course. Just like attending an on-campus program.
Why do we “hold classes”?
If you miss a session, the classes are recorded and placed on Canvas.
The time to complete the master’s program depends on how many credits you take each semester. Since most distance learning student are working full time, we do not recommend more than two courses each semester. To stay and active student, you need to take at least one course in the fall and spring semesters. Students must be registered for at least 5 credits to be eligible for financial aid.
The master’s degrees are 42 credits. A student who takes two courses (6 credits) in the fall, spring and summer semesters will complete the program in seven semesters (2½ years). Within this time, the student must also complete a public health analysis and a practicum. Taking fewer courses will extend the time longer. The average time to complete the program is approximately 3½ years to complete the program. The overall completion rate for the distance learning programs is 86.5% .
The graduate certificate programs are 15 credits. A student may complete a graduate certificate in one calendar year by taking two courses (6 credits) in the spring and fall semesters and one in the summer.
Tulane University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC). Originally accredited in 1903,Tulane's accreditation was last reaffirmed in 2011.
Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is accredited by the Council on Education in Public Health. The school is accredited through 2017 and is currently undergoing its reaccreditation.
The MSPH in Industrial Hygiene is accredited by ABET’s Applied Science Accreditation Commission through 2023. It just very successfully was reaccredited for 6 years.
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