Out of the Swamp and Onto the Prairie
In the world of online education, the University of Oklahoma’s College of Liberal Studies (CLS) has been a hard-hitting player. It has online degree programs that put it years ahead of others rushing to modernize the U.S. higher education system. In fall 2014, CLS hired a new Director of Academic Technology to help nudge the online experience at the college to the next level of excellence.
Dr. John Boekenoogen, a man with more than 20 years of educational experience and a passion for online education, joined the CLS team in November 2014.
Before joining CLS, Boekenoogen spent 13 years with the University of Florida as the Training Lead for Learning Support Services and the Office of Information Technology. Boekenoogen accepted this position after spending three years in Washington, D.C., working for two nonprofit educational foundations that served high school and college students who were looking to use the nation’s capital as a classroom. His passion for helping students began when he started his career as a special education teacher in Missouri in the 1990s.
A passion for education
As a lifelong learner himself, Boekenoogen started his academic career at the University of Arizona, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in political science. While attending the university, he helped bring a chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) to Arizona, worked on the Shuttle Watch Program, assisted faculty and staff at Lunar Planetary Laboratories and participated in many more events with NASA.
His natural love for science fiction is what initially drew him to the university.
“When I was looking to go to college after high school, there was only one choice for me,” he said. “The University of Arizona, the astronomy capital of the world. I was accepted as an astronomy major and wanted to get into planetary sciences.”
As a member of the Astronomy Club, he discovered that, at one time, the college had been home to a chapter of SEDS.
“A good friend and I decided to bring the old chapter back to life,” he said. “We began working with Lunar Planetary Sciences (LPL) and found a faculty sponsor who believed in getting the youth excited about space. We set the foundation for a program that is still strong today, more than 25 years later.”
“The chance to work with the University of Oklahoma and to put in motion a continual bright future for online education was an opportunity that I could not turn down.”
Boekenoogen’s work with LPL led him to his work with NASA. He and his affiliates used local telescopes to observe the space shuttles fly over Arizona before successfully landing in Florida.
“When the shuttles were diverted for landing, we would race out to Edwards Air Force Base and help photograph them. It was very exciting!” he said. “We also got to see the Space Shuttle Columbia being refurbished in Palmdale, California, and the Hubble Space Telescope in the white clean room before it was finally placed in orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990.”
These are only a few of Boekenoogen’s favorite memories. He also worked with a scientist trying to make concrete out of lunar soil, played with the first Mars Rover prototype, archived photos collected on the Apollo missions, participated in NASA’s salute to the Voyager program and met American heroes like Buzz Aldrin.
“I had so many different adventures while working with NASA and LPL that it is hard to pick one favorite project,” he said.
Helping lifelong learners
After completing his bachelor’s degree, Boekenoogen found himself in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, attending Troy University’s extended campus for his master’s degree in international relations.
Troy University is located in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, and is home to two very important U.S. Air Force bases: Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field. Troy University provided a way for U.S. airmen from nearby to earn advanced degrees and progress beyond the rank of captain. This gave Boekenoogen the unique opportunity to study side-by-side with members of the U.S. Air Force Special Operation Command personnel.
“Being part of the university was really exciting for me,” he said. “A lot of my professors were retired military or retired U.S. State Department personnel. Being the only civilian in most of my graduate courses gave me a greater understanding of military life and history.”
Looking for an opportunity to continue his education, Boekenoogen decided to finish his educational experience by immersing himself in an online doctoral degree. As an educator in the field of online education, he felt that it was only right to take on a task that could help him fully understand the experience of his students.
In the few months that Boekenoogen has been working at CLS, he has started implementing processes for the future of online education with the college including long-term course analysis and review and course design. These changes affect the course management system (D2L) and other central support educational technologies and will expand the vision and capability of online education at CLS and OU.
When asked about leaving Florida and moving to Oklahoma, he said, “The chance to work with the University of Oklahoma and to put in motion a continual bright future for online education was an opportunity that I could not turn down.”
Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.