Launched in 2018 as a two-year hybrid degree, Baylor’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program’s first class earned their degrees in December, and the program’s success is leading the way for additional University online and hybrid programs that expand opportunities to engage non-traditional graduate students.
The DPT program offers candidates a fast-tracked degree with a mix of online coursework and intensive in-person practical labs.
“The accelerated piece is what students tell us routinely is the most important thing to them,” Dr. Rodney Bowden, dean of Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, said. “They’ll tell you, ‘I can devote two years of my life and finish this degree without having to move my family, without having to sell the house, without having to leave my community.’”
It is common for DPT programs to be three years in length and residential, and that makes Baylor’s hybrid two-year model unique for the high-demand field. The program’s flexibility allows students to achieve their goals while still serving in their communities.
The online classes are both synchronous and asynchronous; some of the classes are managed on the student’s time, but others have set class times and use a software that links the video feed of the instructor and the students to create a virtual classroom setting. Instructors are able to reinforce their lessons by joining the students for intensive lab immersions where students practice techniques and applications with classmates.
The success of the DPT program has encouraged Robbins College to launch other online and hybrid programs, including Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders degrees. Goals include adding a Physicians Assistant program and three Doctor of Science programs.
Although residential programs exist for some of the degrees, the online and hybrid programs draw in students who would not otherwise be able to attend Baylor and faculty members who are able to come from highly trained professional backgrounds to teach without leaving their existing practice or community. Each of the established programs has seen dramatic growth, and overall enrollment in the graduate program at Robbins College has grown from 146 students at the DPT program launch to almost 750.
“We have really good faculty who have embraced getting these programs launched and moving and going,” Bowden said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to the Graduate School for letting us inherit some of these programs and for faculty willing to do the hard, hard work to get these programs launched.”
Baylor’s programs have a competitive edge by focusing on high-demand fields with quality instruction, practical application in a shorter time frame and the flexibility of online classes. Plus, the establishment of doctoral programs furthers the University’s goals toward Research 1/Tier 1 (R1/T1) status, which is measured in part by doctorates awarded. Robbins College plans to establish a total of 14 graduate programs, nine of which would aid Baylor’s R1/T1 efforts.