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Musser leading MU’s IT online course charge

A man stands in front of a red brick building wearing a gray Mizzou polo.

“If you have more of a focus online, you come to the conclusion that regardless of if its online or offline, there are better ways to do this, more engaging ways, more ways that lead to better results from a student standpoint,” Dale Musser explained. “So how could this not be the future?” Photo by Amy Parris.

As an associate teaching professor and former director of Mizzou Engineering’s Information Technology Program, Dale Musser has been heavily involved in the tech world for decades. And now, he’s been tasked with bringing the IT Program online, in a manner of speaking.

Musser is heading up an effort to have a fully online bachelor’s degree IT approved, up and running by next academic year. The goal is to allow greater flexibility for current, on-campus students while also attracting distance learning students, potential high-achieving high school students and lifelong learners looking for either another degree or a stackable certificate to add to their current knowledge base.

“If you have the opportunity to come [to MU] and experience it, we encourage you to do that,” Musser said. “But if you can’t do that, we don’t want that to be a barrier.”

The degree program is currently in the approval phase with an anticipated start date of next fall.

Musser is already teaching more than 900 total credit hours remotely from his home base in San Francisco, the tech capital of the world. Musser teaches certain introductory and core IT courses as well as electives, including several levels of iOS application development courses. The IT Program as a whole is moving toward making current courses bimodal — optimized for both in-person and online — to help make the online degree a reality.

Musser believes that the multiple IT faculty members who are working toward making their courses optimized both for the web and in person will only benefit from the experience in terms of teaching in both arenas.

“If you have more of a focus online, you come to the conclusion that regardless of if its online or offline, there are better ways to do this, more engaging ways, more ways that lead to better results from a student standpoint,” he explained. “So how could this not be the future?”

In order to secure that future, any educational program needs interested students. Engaging students before they get to campus is one way to help build interest in the program and the IT field in general. To that end, Musser currently is working on a project titled Initialize, funded by a $50,000 Enterprise Technology Priority Grant from insurance giant State Farm.

The concept behind Initialize is to provide resources for middle- and high-school students to give them a greater understanding of the IT field, including videos featuring IT professionals from the Bay Area and elsewhere, salary information, educational requirements, what kinds of jobs IT degrees are useful for and more. In essence, it is a pathway for pre-college students to gain knowledge on what the college admissions process looks like, how to prepare for a collegiate-level IT program and what a degree can do for them after graduation.

“I want to make available IT 1000 and 1040 so students in high school can take them and have the opportunity to figure out if the IT and computer science fields are for them before they get here,” Musser said. “If they take a couple of courses from us, it’s likely they’ll want to go here”

In the meantime, students looking for help in Musser’s classes need not worry about the physical distance. As one might expect from an IT faculty member, he utilizes technology to drop in virtually on students who have questions in order to help them solve their problems in real time.

“You just want to engage in all the ways you can and utilize technology to maintain that flexibility,” Musser explained.

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