East Carolina University was originally created in 1907 as a teacher education school in Greenville, North Carolina, but it has grown exponentially over the last decade to become the third largest of the schools that make the UNC system. Today, ECU is a national, public doctoral university that “remains committed to… service, teaching, and research”, a mission that provides not only for the greater good of the region, but in their commitment to quality education. Serving almost 28,000 students, they offer over 100 Bachelor programs, another 69 Master’s degrees, 18 PhDs, and 41 certications (with strengths in the traditional education, business, medicine, and nursing areas). ECU houses 12 different schools on four properties (9 undergrad, a grad school, and two professional schools), now totaling an expansive 1600 acres of campus (though it was a mere 47 acres at its inception).
Just as its campus has grown its scope has as well, going beyond training teachers for the eastern Carolina area in the last century by adopting and expanding to full college status by 1951, then becoming a regional university by July of 1967. Their record of achievements, in everything from medical research to teacher education, is a point of pride for them and keeps with their mission of “serving as a national model for public service and regional transformation”. ECU is spread over four different properties in the East Carolina region, with as many libraries as there are locations (including the nationally recognized J.Y. Joyner Library, whose 1.3 million books and 2.5 million microform can be accessed online)
Distance learning at ECU has been a point of pride for over 60 years, as they “recognized the potential of online learning early” becoming one of the first schools in the nation to offer a degree completely online. They currently have over 60 online degree/certificate programs, with Master’s degrees in most major areas, from education to business. They offer almost 20 graduate certification programs as well, Post-Master’s certificates in nursing and additional licensure for educators looking to expand their resume. Though ECU primarily offers graduate degree programs online, the Division of Continuing Studies (which oversees distance learning, evening classes, summer classes, and non-traditional students in general) also offers an undergraduate completion program, which takes two year junior/community college credits and puts them towards a four year degree program that is completed online, though with full ECU accreditation.
Online courses, whether for those working entirely online, or taking courses in addition to or in concurrence with traditional ones, are structured and taught by the same faculty as on campus classes. ECU utilizes Moodle and Blackboard, as well as other engines to deliver assignments and information, and encourage constant contact, not just between faculty and students, but between students within the same class. Text-based forums and real-time chats allow for the constant exchange of information to mirror that of class based courses, with an overall goal on ensuring the same education from ECU regardless of geographic location.
Leading the charge in distance education, as well as providing solid, service based education meant to better the world around them, ECU is one of the models for online learners in the nation, constantly expanding and bettering their abilities to educate no matter where the classroom is.