Creighton University School of Pharmacy plans to open the first Pharm.D. program based on distance learning via the Web.
Spurred by a national shortage of pharmacists and underwritten by a $1 million grant from community pharmacy, Creighton University is venturing into cyberspace with the first Pharm.D. degree based on the Web. This is believed to be the first on-line program for undergraduates; this is not a nontraditional Pharm.D. program for B.S. pharmacists looking to upgrade their degree.
Beginning in August, 50 students will enter Creighton University's School of Pharmacy & Allied Health Professions, but they will not be on the Omaha campus. They will be at home in front of their computers, ready to tackle the first year of didactic courses over the World Wide Web. Over the next four years, they'll spend only a couple of weeks each summer in the classroom for hands-on labs, on such topics as patient counseling and compounding. At the end of the process, they will have a shiny new Pharm.D. to hang on the wall, just like the traditional halls-of-ivy student.
By adding another year of the curriculum each year, Creighton plans to be up to its full complement of 400 Web-based Pharm.D. students in five years, said Patrick Malone, Pharm.D., FASHP, director of the Web-based distance education pharmacy pathway. If the goal is met, the school's total enrollment will double to 800 students. Tuition for the on-line contingent has not been determined but will probably be about the same as that charged on-campus students.
Helping Creighton boost its output of pharmacists by 100% is the main reason the school was singled out for a $1 million grant from the Institute for the Advancement of Community Pharmacy. In addition, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, which founded the institute, will work to identify new sites for clinical clerkships for on-line students near their homes.
"The grant is extremely important," said Malone. "In many ways we're talking about almost starting a new school of pharmacy. It's never been done this way before. There are a lot of up-front costs. We've arranged to hire seven new faculty and our new Web master has 10 people working in his department, including instructional designers, a programmer, and a graphic artist."
Prospective students may come from all over the country, but one thing they will need is discipline to work on their own because there won't be the routine of regular classes. They'll more or less set their own schedule around instructional mileposts set by their cyberfaculty.
"Students will have to be self-starters," said Malone. "As long as they hit those mileposts, they'll be OK. We're trying to serve people who haven't been well served in the past. For example, there are a number of people who because of family reasons have not been able to go to pharmacy school before."
Using beefed-up, heavy-duty hardware and more powerful software to handle the demands, the technology staff is still working some of the kinks out of the Web-based degree program. "We'll continue to do that forever, but it seems to be coming along overall," Malone said. "We're running a couple of trial run courses this semester with 15 to 30 students who volunteered to be Web-based. They never come to class, and they do everything over the Internet. We're discovering where things just aren't working as well as we'd like, and we can fix those bugs."
For more information about the on-line Pharm.D., phone 1-(800) 325-2830; or go on the Web to http://spahp.creighton.edu.
Carol Ukens. Creighton pioneers Web-based Pharm.D. program.