ISU’s online speech-language master’s program provides flexibility
July, 27, 2016
When Katie Pilant decided to pursue a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, she chose Idaho State University’s online program for its academic excellence and convenience.
“The thing that decided it for me was that I could work at the same time while going to school,” said Pilant, 27, who is employed as speech-language pathology assistant in Longmont, Colorado about 33 miles northwest of Denver.
Jen Martin, a 36-year-old mother of three from Boise, chose the master’s program to fulfill a lifelong dream. “It’s the career I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child. I had two siblings with speech disorders and saw how speech-language pathology services helped them,” she said.
Pilant and Martin are two of 16 students enrolled in an online cohort that just completed an eight-week practicum on the Pocatello campus. Their course of study included laboratory work and hands-on experience treating clients at the ISU Speech and Language Clinic, said Robin Pierce Ament, online clinic coordinator and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
The 16 students, who worked under the supervision of faculty, evaluated patients, developed and carried out treatment plans, set goals for clients and had the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups, Ament said.
Students will now return to their hometowns to continue their online academic and clinical requirements before returning next summer for a one-week practicum in the Meridian Intensive Aphasia Program at ISU-Meridian. They’ll receive their Master of Science degrees in speech-language pathology in 2018.
ISU began the online degree in 2010, a 36-month program designed for students and working professionals who are not able to leave their communities for traditional, on-campus graduate study. More than 200 students apply each year for the 18 seats in the cohort, Ament said.
Pilant and Martin say the online format works well for them. They appreciate the pace and flexibility of the program and the quality of academic instruction. “I love it so far. Because we have only a couple of classes each semester, I feel I can focus,” said Pilant, who says a master’s degree will enhance her career options and enable her to practice on her own.
Martin, whose children are ages 15, 12 and 10, says the program enables her to meet her family obligations while working as a special education teacher’s aide in the Boise Public Schools system. An added bonus to the online format is the opportunity to re-watch lectures, something you can’t do in a traditional class setting, she said.
Filling a need
Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 21 percent through 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The department says a major reason for the growth is a large, aging population that is beginning to experience health conditions, such as stroke and hearing loss, and will require the services of a speech-language pathologist. Rural communities are often in greatest need.
Martin found her eight-week stay in Pocatello invaluable. Not only was it a chance to bond with her online classmates—they would meet weekly for potlucks—but she was able to work with a variety of clients, from preschoolers to the elderly.
“There are so many opportunities and avenues in the field,” she said.
ISU’s online master’s program is one of the few in the country and the only one in Idaho, said Ament. To find out more, go to http://www2.isu.edu/spchpath/speech/online.shtml or call (208) 282-3635.