Skip to main content

Students flock to ASU's online psychology degree

Kristen Carstensen
September 25, 2012

From Arizona to Australia, ASU’s online bachelor’s degree in psychology is proving to be extremely popular.

Less than two years after it was launched, the degree from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences has the largest enrollment of all fully online degree programs offered through ASU Online. Among such degrees, it’s also the university’s fastest-growing program.

Online psychology students have been attracted not only from across the United States but from countries including Australia, Canada and Slovenia. Forty-five U.S. states and territories are represented, with Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois and Colorado comprising the top five in enrollment.

“This program presents scholarly and rigorous coursework enabling students to acquire core skills for entry into graduate school or for career preparation,” said Lorraine Festa, program manager for the online degree.

Unlike online offerings from other universities that involve “facilitated” instruction by part-time instructors, courses in the ASU Online psychology program are mostly taught by New College faculty members – PhD lecturers who are experts in their field. The curriculum is the same as in the face-to-face program offered by New College on ASU’s West campus.

If enrollment growth to date is any indication, students are responding enthusiastically to the quality of the course offerings. From the spring 2011 semester to the spring of 2012, total enrollments grew from 190 to 504, a jump of 165 percent.

“Basing coursework on the independent, motivated and disciplined characteristics of an online student, the presence of solid, organized and knowledge-based course content will guarantee further student enrollment,” Festa says.

One student who is happy with her decision to pursue the degree is Kristen Carstensen, a mother of three who works full time. Carstensen said that besides enabling her to pursue her studies during times that fit her busy schedule, the online program contains a number of features designed to create a sense of community and connect students with each other and with faculty members.

“I get regular emails from my professors, checking in and letting me know where I stand, so I’m never wondering where I am and how I’m doing in the class,” she said. “And thanks to ‘Hallway Conversations,’ which is an open forum for all students, I get the feeling that I’m sitting next to other students in class. We can set up study groups, post questions and reply to them.”

For both online and on-campus students, the bachelor's degree in psychology equips students with skills in critical thinking, quantitative and qualitative research, and the ability to interact effectively with groups of people from diverse backgrounds.

“Graduates from New College’s psychology degree programs routinely go on to successful careers in social services, counseling, human resources, criminal justice, teaching, law and public administration, while others choose to pursue graduate and doctoral degrees,” said Robert Taylor, associate dean in New College. “Our commitment is to provide an online program that delivers those same opportunities for graduates.”

The program offers a range of courses that reflect diverse perspectives on individual and group behavior, including clinical, cognitive systems/behavioral neuroscience, cross-cultural, developmental, organizational, and social psychology, as well as interdisciplinary fields such as health psychology and law and psychology. Students also take courses in statistics and research methods.

In both the online and on-campus programs, courses are presented in the context of cultural, socio-historical and transnational issues, enabling students to understand the relationships among psychology and other social and behavioral sciences. Undergraduate students may add practical experiences to enrich their program of study through service learning, internships and research conducted under the guidance of individual faculty members. The online undergraduate program in psychology emphasizes developing skills in critical thinking and reasoning, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and writing to round out students’ preparation for careers or graduate studies.

In addition to the academic growth she is experiencing, Carstensen said she has other motivations to succeed in her studies.

“I want the personal fulfillment of accomplishing my goal in obtaining my college degree, and I want to set an example for my daughters,” she said. “I want them to see that their mom was able to go to college and get her degree, and I hope it will inspire them to pursue higher education one day too.”