Officially the oldest university in Illinois, Normal’s Illinois State University has been around since Abe Lincoln put together the legal documents to create the school back in 1857. Called a normal school at the time (how coincidental… actually, the town was called North Bloomington, but changed its name due to the school), it was a teacher training school that survives today as the second largest university in Illinois, granting primarily undergraduates (about 18000 students) and some graduates (another 2500) degrees ranging from Bachelor up to PhD.
Still a highly respected teacher’s college today, ISU now offers 67 undergraduate programs, as well as another 39 Master’s and 8 PhD areas of study. They are widely recognized in the areas of English (which is a gigantic department at ISU, featuring a recognized children’s lit department and multi-faceted areas of study), as well as Nursing and History (both often cited for being models in their fields). They have six colleges on campus and a multitude of research opportunities available for both faculty and students.
Though Illinois State doesn’t offer online degrees, it does hold to the 21st century idea on the importance of an online element to education. In fact, ISU’s President Bowman has gone on record saying “the computer is considered to be as essential as a textbook” and their Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology stated in an article about the conflict over distance learning that teachers should “take advantage of emerging technologies in ways that enhance students learning”. As a result, many online courses are offered throughout ISU, with no real delineation to a specific major or level of study. The CTLT offers not only help tools for students with online questions or Blackboard access issues, but it also offers online help courses for teachers (keeping with its history of teaching teachers), as well as online tutorials for everything from Microsoft to adding channels to the iCampus portal. There are also links to distance learning sites for both teachers and students.
The faculty at ISU are highly trained, not just in online tools (posting grades, delivering/accepting content through the internet, and online learning tools for educators are taught to teachers through the ISU site), but in their field of study, with 1136 members of the faculty holding terminal degrees in their fields. Although class sizes are occasionally large (about 11% have 50+ people), the professors are consistently kept trained on the newest information and the keys to delivering it, both electronically and in large classes. 10% of classes are taught by graduate assistants, bringing a fresh, new approach to a field under the watchful eye of experienced professors.
In addition, adult learners and returning students are given a multitude of options, from New Start programs (whereby students with a low ISU gpa can leave for a year and return with a clean slate) to online grad school orientation (a general intro to ISU grad school, with individual orientations for programs still done face to face on campus). Many grad students are exposed to intern and research opportunities through the school and online services (from access to their extensive Milner Library online to thesis/dissertation aid) are plentiful.
With a nationally recognized competitive Forensics team (they are actually hosting the National Forensics Association championship in 2011), a vibrant Greek life, and a campus that prides itself on its green attitude and sustainability, ISU offers a unique and varied college experience. Teaching teachers for over 150 years, they have a past in knowing education, something they imbue on to their faculty and students still today.