Professor Says Convenience Growing the eVersity Opportunity

As a Biology professor at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (UAPB), Nastassia Merriweather is accustomed to breaking things down to their most elemental components and demonstrating how systems within an organism function to support each other.

Asked to similarly dissect the University of Arkansas System eVersity, where she also teaches, she said the program’s relevance of study and convenience of content delivery are the program’s most impactful attributes.

“Overall, I think this is a good program,” she said. “It’s a genius idea to have a 100 percent online school for a bachelor’s degree program within the state. Although some schools offer online courses, it’s very few you can find within the UA System that offer the complete degree online.”

Merriweather said the impact of such a program is universal wherever nontraditional students reside, but for rural and less-educated areas of the state the promise of a bachelor’s degree is particularly appealing. As a native of Pine Bluff, which like many Arkansas Delta communities has had its share of social and economic challenges, the potential benefits reside right outside her window.

“[eVersity] appeals to those nontraditional students who do have full-time jobs and also a family to take care of, and maybe in some instances their parents,” she said. “The program allows them the opportunity to pursue a career and their degree by focusing on one class and one subject matter at a time versus having to do 12-to-18 course hours and juggle everything else on top of that.”

Merriweather gives eVersity high marks for the manner in which it delivers the content and for the support that students receive, especially through the advising staff. These professionals serve a critical function, acting as an extension of the professor to help keep students on track.

“That aspect is actually great because the advisors also have access to the classes, so they can see how a student is doing,” she said. “If they’re missing assignments, the advisor can say, ‘Hey, you missed this assignment.’ Or if I see they haven’t logged in in two or three days, I’ll send them an email and it will go to their advisor, as well. If there’s an issue going on, they normally will email me back and let me know. That way we can work on it together.”

As word of these positives gets out, it’s resulted in higher enrollment. Merriweather, who teaches a criminal justice course, said class headcount has risen steadily in the time she’s been involved with eVersity. Her latest group, numbering about 30 students, is her largest class yet.

“I think eVersity is practical for those who can’t sit in a classroom for an hour or hour and a half for a face-to-face lecture,” she said of the program’s growth in popularity. “It gives them the opportunity to gain their degree and still continue to work their regular job and take care of their family.”