— Bill Angrove
Early distance education courses at SHSU were first offered in disciplines such as education, history and criminal justice, in the early 2000s. Online course development grew slowly over the decade until 2009, when SHSU Online was founded with a focus on increasing the university’s distance education capabilities and providing the highest possible quality in online courses and learning.
Bill Angrove, associate vice president for distance education at SHSU, was brought to the university initially as a consultant to foster SHSU Online’s organizational development in 2008. Shortly thereafter, then university President James Gaertner hired Angrove full-time, before stepping down. Dana Hoyt became president of SHSU in 2010. While this marked a significant change in leadership, Hoyt embraced the growth of online education for the university.
“In order for online education to be successful, it has to be done at the direction of the university president, as a presidential initiative,” Angrove said. “President Hoyt made it a priority from the start.”
Picking up the distance-learning baton from Gaertner, Hoyt utilized her previous experience with online education from her time at National University in San Diego, which had also developed a large online presence.
“Since 2009, Sam Houston State has seen rapid growth in online learning, as online instructional designers and support staff have teamed up with university faculty to develop an ever-growing number of high-quality online courses,” Angrove said.
As online programs continue to expand, Angrove has significantly grown his online department over the past decade. Currently, he directs a team of 50 full-time and 24 part-time staff. Now offering nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and graduate certificates all 100 percent online, students can make educational choices that suit their personal, academic and professional goals.
“Today, a quarter of our semester credit hours are generated online at SHSU,” Angrove said. “It’s a very popular option. Adult learners in particular are an example of the kind of students who typically don’t want to come to a campus anymore. They want their education to fit into their lifestyle.”
Online education continues to grow in importance for SHSU. National research suggests that most adult learners will return to college online, and that online education has become mainstream. In 2018 alone, online enrollments in the United States grew 3 percent among exclusively online learners.
Online programs are becoming more diversified as well. Graduate programs in STEM and health sciences have reported steady growth over the last four years. Online education has allowed Sam Houston State University to extend its footprint nationwide.