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Students Say Flexibility & Quality Learning is Key to Online Degree Success

Students Say Flexibility & Quality Learning is Key to Online Degree Success

You don't have to be on campus to be Illinois! Becoming a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign means that you'll join an exclusive group of alumni who are more than 500,000 strong. Using the latest in course delivery technologies, the Department of Crop Sciences at Illinois offers graduate-level education in the areas of Crop Sciences, Horticulture, and Urban Agriculture through online master's degree and graduate certificate programs. An important benefit to our online program is that tuition is the same for both in-state and out-of-state students.

When our students graduate, they often have multiple potential job opportunities. The demand for our students is high and the future looks even more promising for well-trained scientists as societal demands continue to change. For example, by 2020, estimates say that more than 1,400 new graduates with a master's degree or Ph.D. in plant breeding will be needed. Graduates of the Department of Crop Sciences enter a wide range of careers, finding opportunities in business, government, and educational and research institutions. Many students continue their education, pursuing advanced degrees in Crop Sciences or other professions. Potential career possibilities may include:

  • Agronomic production manager
  • Crop consultant and crop production
  • Farm manager
  • Land-use planner
  • Plant breeder
  • Seed, chemical, or fertilizer consultant
  • Soil surveyor

Daniel Lundeen from Altona, Illinois completed the online degree program in May 2013. Daniel was able to get his online MS degree in the area of Crop Production while continuing his career as a Technical Agronomist for Monsanto in Northern Illinois, where he is working on the Channel Brand. Daniel received his undergrad degree from the U of I, and says that he knew he wanted his master's to come from Illinois as well—"I never even looked at another program."

"I was working for Monsanto at the time of my degree completion. It was very convenient and doable, especially since my company supported my professional development," Daniel explains. "It took time on the weekends and evenings to complete the program but it was worth the extra effort. Often I would be away for meetings and unable to attend class at the specified time, and I was more than impressed with the flexibility of the professors as they rescheduled quizzes and provided recorded lectures without judgment." Daniel notes that he also benefitted from connecting with professors and gathering more knowledge related to current thinking in academia about production agriculture.

"The classes and program added to my career by opening up new opportunities within my company that can be taken advantage of immediately or in the future," he says.

Coordinated by leading researcher and professor, Dr. Donald Briskin, the Crop Sciences online program is specifically designed for employed agricultural professionals seeking advanced education and professional growth. Several courses are offered each semester and summer, starting in the early evening, so you can your pursue your education without interfering with your work-week. In addition, all class sessions are recorded so that if a professional obligation does require you to miss a class, the session can be viewed at a later time.

With this online program, you set the pace! Complete your degree at a rate appropriate for your personal and professional life situation. You can take one course per term and complete your master's degree gradually; this approach usually takes up to five years. On the other hand, if you'd rather take two to three courses per term you can complete your degree within two years—the same length of time that a campus-based student would normally take to complete a full-time master's degree program. The Crop Sciences online master's degree can be completed entirely through formal coursework or you have the option to conduct a supervised research project, which would count for a portion of the degree requirements.

Agricultural professionals can also take individual courses in the program as non-degree students to broaden their technical background. The Crop Sciences online program also offers graduate certificates of professional advancement in Crop Sciences or Horticulture, which can be received following the successful completion of a program involving three specific courses in each case.

The U of I Crop Sciences program is unique among comparable plant science online degree programs because our courses involve live lecture and discussion with top-level professors in a virtual classroom setting. You interact with both your instructor and your fellow students, creating an enriching learning environment. We use identical quality standards for the creation and deployment of both our campus-based and online courses. All of our online courses share the following features:

  • Fully online
  • Academically equal to campus courses
  • Interactive and dynamic
  • Adult learner-based

The online learning environment for your courses will typically consist of a learning management system (LMS) that provides online access to your course syllabus, schedule, assignments, discussion board, learning content and activities, and grades. Recently, we’ve expanded our accessibility even further, with learning content available for use on tablets, such as the iPad.

Innovation is always happening at Illinois. Urban agriculture has become an increasingly popular way to revitalize and build communities, enhance the local citizen health profile, and express environmental concerns in a hands-on way. A new agriculture course, Urban Food Production will bring these concepts to life when the class launches in August 2014. Dr. Sam Wortman, Assistant Professor of Urban Food Production, remarks, "This new course will allow students to explore the unique environmental challenges of growing food in cities and the space-intensive food production methods adapted for urban areas. My goal in this course is to equip students with the knowledge and practical skills to assess the agricultural potential of urban real estate and to develop economically and environmentally sustainable urban farming systems. Through a combination of primary and popular literature, students will learn about urban cropping systems including vacant lot urban farms, heated and unheated greenhouses, community and backyard gardens, hydroponics, and aquaponics."

To learn more about the online program options in U of I Crop Sciences, visit or contact:

Anna Mehl, Online Program Coordinator
Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Phone (217) 244-7023
N-121 Turner Hall
1102 S. Goodwin Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801