Liberty University was founded in 1971 as a brick and mortar institution in Lynchburg, Va., offering a higher education grounded in Christian principles. Soon, the school became a pioneer in online education, launching its distance-learning program in 1985. Thanks to its robust, growing enrollment, with more than 60,000 students in its online program and more than 12,000 individuals studying at the Lynchburg campus, Liberty is the nation’s eighth-largest four-year university; the largest private, four-year, nonprofit university in the United States; and the world’s largest Christian university. The school has been a magnet for students interested in a Christian-based education, as well as those looking for affordable tuition, a supportive environment, and a flexible format for online education.
Liberty awards online academic degrees in a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, certificates, and even offers a home-schooling program for grades 3-12 as part of its Liberty University Online Academy. Its more than 45 online degree programs and 100 concentrations include, at the undergraduate level, aviation, business, criminal justice, education, Christian ministry, nursing, psychology, and religion. At the graduate level, programs include business, communications, counseling, education, nursing, seminary, and sports management. The online program also continually expands to stay relevant to the current job market, with recent additions including degree programs in health care, public relations, and public policy.
Liberty is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award degrees at the associate, baccalaureate, master’s, education specialist, and doctoral levels, ensuring that courses taken and degrees earned through the university will be accepted by other institutions that are also accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Liberty’s online program is one of the most respected out there for several reasons. The Online Education Database ranked Liberty eighth among online universities for its high retention and graduation rates. In 2009, The Journal, a technology education publication, also ranked Liberty in the top U.S. higher education online institutions based on growth.
Liberty’s online MBA program has also garnered praise. GetEducated.com, a consumer group that reviews online university degree programs for cost, quality, and credibility, ranked the MBA in Human Resources one of its top 15 “Best Buys” in 2010, based on the program’s estimated cost of less than $20,000 for online learners nationwide. Liberty University’s online MBA, Master of Education, and Bachelor of Science in Psychology are also currently ranked as “Best Buys.”
The university’s military support has further helped it stand out in a crowded field. GI Jobs magazine ranked it as one of its military-friendly schools; Military Times Edge ranked Liberty No. 16 out of the 50 most popular schools in the United States for troops; and the magazine ranked it No. 9 on its list of Best Colleges for Vets, no small task considering that nearly 4,000 schools were surveyed. Liberty owes its high rankings to the array of benefits it offers its military students, from tuition discounts and book vouchers to scholarships and credit transfers for education and life experience. As a result of its military-friendly policies, active military, veterans, and military spouses make up more than one-third of the school’s online enrollment.
The Student Experience
Interaction with online classmates is strictly done via the Web. The virtual environment, while not a perfect simulation of a traditional classroom, enables students to build relationships with classmates on a similar degree track as well as develop strong bonds with instructors. Students are provided with a school email address where they can receive weekly announcements from the school and updates from instructors, and they can check assignments, grades, and more through online platforms such as Blackboard. An eight-week Introduction to Online Learning class familiarizes students with the online experience and the process of taking tests, completing discussion boards, writing papers, and interacting with future classmates in a digital world.
Liberty’s online library boasts access to more than 73,000 journal titles and 105,000 electronic books, available 24/7. The university’s Online Writing Center, which features a writing tutoring service exclusively designed for Liberty University Online students, is also available at all hours. For that human touch, live assistance is available through Skype or IM. To help ensure the online student experience is positive and life-changing, Liberty’s Online Advocate works with academic advisors and university support offices to help overcome obstacles on the road from enrollment to graduation.
With spirituality a large part of the Liberty identity, the school also provides students with accessible, faith-based guidance online. Through its Liberty Online Ministries, spiritual food for thought is just one click away, as students can listen to the Tip of the Week, read a Topic of the Week, or email a prayer request to the Life Resources department.
Liberty University Online has students enrolled from all over the world, but students in the Virginia area are also invited to visit its 6,500-acre campus and attend games featuring the school’s NCAA Division I teams, hang out at the student center, or take a class that requires on-campus meetings to further connect with the Liberty community.
Teaching at Liberty
For many students, preparing for the challenges of the real world starts in the classroom. Liberty, like most high-quality institutions, prides itself in the qualifications of the people charged with educating tomorrow’s leaders.
According to the school’s website, all of their faculty members have either master’s or doctorate degrees, and many of them also hold top-level positions within their respective industries. That level of experience and relevance in the field can provide students with extensive and valuable insight into their focus of study.
Professors also strongly share the university’s religious leanings, and every course is taught from a Christian worldview. In the law department, for instance, courses are taught from the premise that there is an integral relationship between faith and reason.
Liberty Graduates in the Real World
Liberty students graduate with a strong educational foundation thanks to the academic integrity of their classes. Graduates have gone on to work in education, business, criminal justice, and a variety of ministries, though with more than 45 online degree programs and 100 concentrations, there are many career opportunities.
To assist in the job hunt, the Center for Academic Support and Advising Services’ Virtual Career Center provides career services at any time of day, so no matter the hour, students can find information on internships, networking, job search and research, career counseling, and resume and portfolio assistance. Some departments, such as law, feature their own centers for career and professional development that equip students and alumni with tools and skills essential for success.
The Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow group also provides opportunities for students to network with Liberty graduates. Its Alumni Mentoring program, for instance, encourages both online and residential students to get in touch with alumni regarding career advice and tips for success upon graduation, as well as stay connected to the school and community long after they’ve received their diploma.
Liberty University Online
Liberty University Online Faculty Highlight – Shanna Akers
Shanna Akers, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Director of R.N. to B.S.N. online program, talks about the Nursing department.
Liberty University Online Faculty Highlight – Dan Mitchell
Dr. Dan Mitchell, Associate Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School, discusses his background and his experiences teaching online at Liberty.
Liberty University Online Faculty Highlight – Dr. Kevin Corsini
Dr. Kevin Corsini, Dean of Counseling and Family Services & Seminary Online, talks about his online and residential students.