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Lee University Online Degree Programs

The growing and changing market of online degrees has resulted in the latest evolution of the original Continuing Education Program, founded on the Lee University campus in 1976. What has been the Center for Adult and Professional Studies (CAPS), is now the Division of Adult Learning.

The Continuing Education Program was begun as a joint program of Lee and the Church of God General Department of Education for the training of ministers unable to pull up stakes and become a residential student. The program was popular because many pastors who had bypassed college studies to go straight into the ministry could now earn their degree. The first director of Continuing Ed was Dr. Ray Hughes Jr., who remained a member of the science faculty while directing the new endeavor. The degree was earned completely through mailed correspondence.

About 1980 the program had grown to warrant a presence on campus and was moved to a recently acquired house at the corner of 11th and Parker Streets. Due to the need for materials, a print shop was established in the same location. Over the next several years, Continuing Ed expanded into extensions, with campus faculty going to the extension sites, such as Birmingham and Gadsden, Alabama.

By 1983 a full-time coordinator of extensions was hired and the development of extension sites was emphasized. By 1985, the program became wholly owned by Lee.

By the early 1990s, the program was reorganized under a new name – the Department of External Studies. External Studies continued to partner with the Department of Education of the Church of God to provide college credit for the Ministerial Internship Program (MIP). Four courses were written by Lee faculty, taught as part of the MIP program and administered for college credit by External Studies.

In 1992 the program moved into the new Watkins Building, located at the corner of 8th and Church Streets on the Lee campus. Near that time, a Tuesday/Thursday program was inaugurated.

After nearly 20 years at the helm, Hughes resigned as director and Dr. Henry Smith assumed leadership in 1995. Smith led the program for five years until his retirement and Dr. R.B. Thomas was named interim director. In the next two years, External Studies added an online delivery mode through E-College.

Upon retiring from the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Ben Pérez moved from the New England area to become the third full-time director of Lee’s correspondence program that had by now evolved into an online program. In 2005, External Studies reorganized under a new name, the Center for Adult and Professional Studies (CAPS), and a degree completion program, the B.S. in Christian Leadership was initiated.

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In April of this year, Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn announced the latest reorganization of online learning into the Division of Adult Learning. Two years ago, Lee again partnered with the Church of God, this time through the Internet Degree Program (IDP). The new Division of Adult Learning merges the IDP with CAPS.

“Over the last year, we have been preparing to combine the best of both programs,” stated Dr. Jayson VanHook, vice president for information services at Lee. “Our primary focus in this new endeavor will be Lee Online, which will include our adult learning programs offered exclusively through Internet-delivery. We will also continue to offer instruction in our distance learning centers, primarily on the Lee and Charlotte Center (North Carolina) campuses.”

The new division serves over 700 adult learners who study literally around the world online or in one of Lee’s education centers.

“In this transition, we will be reorganizing the leadership into four areas under a single Division of Adult Learning,” VanHook continued. “Dr. Joshua Black will be joining us in July as the executive director of this division. He is a Lee alum and has been serving as the associate dean in the School of Liberal Arts for the Adult College at Indiana Wesleyan University.” VanHook also introduced others who will have leadership roles in the new division: Dr. Ben Perez will serve as the Director of Curriculum Development, Dr. Delton Alford as Director of Faculty Services, Michael Welborn as the Director of Enrollment Services, and Mitch Baker will coordinate Technology Support.

“We are extremely excited to have Dr. Black joining us as the executive director in this new division,” VanHook said. “He brings with him a wealth of experience in adult learning and a deep commitment to the mission and values of Lee University.”

As to the future, VanHook stated, “We are looking at aggressively adding new programs of study over the next few years in the Division of Adult Learning. We will continue to offer high-quality programs in various areas of religious studies, but we are also looking at expanding our programmatic offerings to include professional and degree completion programs in other areas as well.”

Over the summer the new division will be relocating from the Watkins Building to larger quarters down the street in the Ocoee Street Annex, the former administrative offices for First Baptist Church of Cleveland. Lee University acquired the church campus when First Baptist relocated in 2010.

Cameron Fisher, Church of God Communications

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