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Student diversity drives learning in economics bachelor’s degree online

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Learners come from a range of professional backgrounds and often seek jobs in analytics, data or finance

By Jordan Friedman
Jan. 27, 2021

For Oregon State University economics instructor Michael Jerman, the demographics of the students he teaches in person differ from those he teaches online.

His on-campus students are primarily pursuing a bachelor’s degree straight out of high school. But his Oregon State Ecampus students come from a much wider variety of backgrounds – all different ages, career goals and life experiences – and are learning online in cities across the globe.

“That’s very rewarding for me,” Jerman says. “This term, one of my students was in Austria, for instance. We could even bring that into the class. We could talk about how policies and social movements in Austria are similar to the United States or other places where people are around the world.”

Students who enroll in the Oregon State economics bachelor’s degree online gain a strong foundation in quantitative analysis, oral and written communication, problem-solving and research methods. Designed for adult learners looking to change career paths or advance in their current field, the program also enables students to choose from three specializations to align with their specific goals: general economics; law, economics and policy; and managerial economics.

Needless to say, there’s a lot you can do with an economics bachelor’s degree. So it’s not surprising that Jerman’s students have ranged from Major League Baseball team employees looking to secure an analytics role to military personnel preparing for a career after their deployment.

“There’s a big world out there,” Jerman says. “We get to experience it with Ecampus, which is pretty great.”

A unique kind of classroom

In Oregon State’s online programs, coursework consists of much more than a professor simply posting course material from the in-person program in the online format, Jerman says. Instead, faculty work closely with Ecampus’ expert instructional designers to ensure students engage with the material in meaningful ways.

“[Instructional designers] are very, very active in the pedagogy community and keeping up with the latest trends and research regarding what works and doesn’t work in these [online] modalities,” Jerman says. Ecampus students also have access to one-on-one student success coaching, creating a strong support network of its own, he adds.

Even online, there are plenty of ways for students to interact and build meaningful relationships with each other and their instructors. In Jerman’s economics classes, students complete group projects and participate in discussion boards in addition to reviewing academic papers and fulfilling other course requirements.

“Everyone has their own experiences that they can draw from,” Jerman says.

Michael Jerman teaches for the Oregon State economics bachelor's degree online.

Michael Jerman is an instructor for the economics bachelor’s degree online in the School of Public Policy at Oregon State.

Advancing a career online

There are a wide variety of jobs that economics students can seek upon graduation. In general, Jerman says, economics students pursue data- and analytics-focused roles, though the program can also lead to positions in finance or banking.

The flexibility of the online learning format is ideal for somebody who works full time and wants to further their education without sacrificing their career or uprooting their lives, Jerman says.

“The flexibility is much more rewarding, much more valuable for [a large majority of] students,” he says.

Jerman advises prospective online economics students to take advantage of all of the resources available through Ecampus and build connections with the instructors and other students, regardless of the distance between them.

“Just go in with that emphasis on being engaged rather than being a passive learner. Try to actively engage with the material, with the content and with your classmates,” he says.

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