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Distance Learning



Although many WISR students live in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, all of WISR’s degree programs and courses are available by online learning, and students may study from a distance. WISR students living nearby can participate in seminars on site at WISR and meet with faculty face to face at WISR’s learning center in Berkeley. All seminars are also available by phone and video conference over the internet.  Over the years, we have found that most students admitted from outside the Bay Area do exceedingly well in our programs. We provide significant, and regular, individualized, real-time instruction to students from outside the Bay Area, similar to the ways we are able to work with local students nearby, except that we make extensive and regular use of phone conference calls instead of face-to-face meetings. In addition, local students also sometimes prefer to participate by phone conference calls or video conferences over the internet.

Students living throughout the US (however, see section below on Limitations of Enrollment of Out of State students), and even in other countries around the world, are able to pursue academic degrees at WISR through regular phone and video conferences with faculty, participation in our online courses (all WISR courses are available online, and also conducted with regular one-on-one support and guidance from WISR faculty), by occasional visits to WISR to participate on site in seminars and to meet with faculty and other students. Students studying from a distance not only participate in online learning, but are actively engaged in real-time dialogue by calling into a phone conference line that will be connected with a speaker phone in our seminar room, or by accessing seminars and meetings over the internet by real-time video conferences, as well. Students and faculty on site at WISR and those students on their phone line or computer/internet, off site, are able to interact and discuss issues, ideas and questions with one another.

Regular faculty feedback to students is also communicated online at a distance, with faculty engaged in diligent reading of student comments, posts, questions, reviews of books, and drafts of papers. Faculty respond thoughtfully and in a timely fashion. Faculty make every effort to give students rapid feedback on their writing comments and drafts of papers and theses. Typically, faculty give students feedback on papers that are 20 pages or less, within 7 to 10 days. Faculty may need as much as three to four weeks to read and give feedback on longer papers, and especially on drafts of theses and dissertations. Faculty are available to set up hour-long conferences with students, either face-to-face, or by phone or video conference once every week or so, or more often, when requested by students. Generally, it is best to set up appointments a week in advance, so students can coordinate their own schedules of availability with the openings in the faculty member’s schedule.

Student engagement in learning with other students is considered to be exceedingly important. Students are required to collaborate through online forums, and seminars, and are encouraged to fulfill these requirements with such other options as forming student study groups, engaging in informal dialogue with other students, and creating collaborative projects with other students. 

Here are examples of some alumni who have studied from great distances from the Bay Area . . .

• One WISR Doctoral alumnus is a tenured professor of law in Boston.  As an Asian-American, he has served on community task forces which are fostering community dialogue to further multi-culturality in the greater Boston area.  His doctoral studies focused on his specialization in labor law and workplace bullying, as well as his special interest in the role of intellectuals in promoting progressive social change.

• A former Doctoral student is a Nigerian who used his studies at WISR to further social policy research aimed at redistributing the wealth from Nigerian oil resources to benefit impoverished communities there.

• A recent Doctoral alumnus is originally from Cameroon, and while doing his WISR doctorate, was working in Bangladesh and as Chair of the Department of Vocational and Technical Education at the Islamic University of Technology (IUT). His studies at WISR were focused on evaluating and improving the technical education skills and knowledge of IUT’s students who were planning to return to one of the over 50 countries represented among IUT’s student body.

• A faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, now retired, who specialized in multi-cultural education, teaching reading and writing to young children, and the creation of support systems for minority teachers.

• The historian for the Omaha tribe, who, while living in Nebraska, successfully obtained his MA at WISR with his studies focusing on cultural preservation projects growing out of his work with his tribe and with anthropologists, educators, public officials and the general public. Subsequently, he and a colleague of his in a neighboring community, collaborated and completed their doctorates at WISR, while working on a number of projects including their dissertation which was an in-depth history of the Omaha people from an Omaha perspective.

• A professor of “English as a Foreign Language” in Japan who was very involved in a number of facets of cross-cultural education.  His doctoral studies at WISR furthered his professional writing, including a paper on “Ethnographies of Learning” presented at the 1997 TESOL Conference in Orlando, Florida.  His dissertation was concerned with researching and articulating a critical approach to learning and teaching culture, based on the study of “English as a Foreign Language” classrooms in Japan.

• Several former doctoral students were licensed therapists living in such locales as Colorado, Hawaii, Germany and Seattle, who have pursued advanced work in the treatment of a wide variety of trauma survivors, and in the training of therapists and other professionals who work with people recovering from various forms of trauma.  These therapists have often studied the use of somatic and movement approaches to therapy in conjunction with verbal approaches.  Some have been concerned with neurological and physiological, as well as spiritual, aspects of healing.

Limitations on Enrollment of Out of State Students

Since the State of California is the only state in the US that has not signed the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements ( go to http://nc-sara.org/ for more details), WISR cannot offer its distance learning programs to students living in most other states of the US.  There are a few states whose residents may enroll at WISR, since WISR does not have a physical presence in those states and does not advertise in those states. Because of our small size, it is not economically feasible for WISR to seek the necessary state authorization from each state in which a prospective student resides. Those from other states who are interested in enrolling at WISR should contact us to find out if their state is one of the states for which WISR would be allowed to provide distance education to students. Those from other states who wish to do studies at WISR on site, in the Bay Area, rather than from a distance, are welcome to explore this option as well. WISR is able to entertain inquiries from prospective students living in other countries, since this interstate reciprocity agreement does not apply to students from other countries. 

Admissions Requirements and Teaching-Learning Process

Like all students admitted to WISR, applicants from outside the Bay Area discuss WISR’s program and their own goals, interests, and backgrounds with a core faculty member.  The application process involves extended telephone conversations and/or video conferences, letters of recommendation, and the applicant’s written statement about her or his interests, plans, and the kinds of learning and community action in which s/he has been involved. The application process will also assess whether or not the prospective distance student has the skills and resources to be successful in their intended WISR degree program:

Students living outside the Bay Area are expected to have the technological resources (regular, well-functioning internet access, especially), and the self-motivation, to maintain regular online, and phone or video conference contact with WISR faculty, and to participate in seminars from time to time.   See Section on Admissions.

Students are strongly encouraged, but not required to visit WISR, to participate on site, for two or three days each year, whenever they can. Each student constructs an individualized program of study with WISR faculty help, in conjunction with pursuing the courses required for the degree program in which they are enrolled. Frequent telephone conversations, or video conferences, and exchanges of e-mails, comments online, book reviews, and drafts of papers with WISR faculty are used to communicate about the student’s learning goals, coursework in progress, readings, job-related work of current interest, and other topics related to the student’s learning.  This regular feedback helps to give students support, stimulation, constructive criticism, and intellectual foci for their professional and academic activities. All students must provide rough drafts of papers to WISR faculty, so that they can receive specific suggestions for refining their ideas and improving their writing skills.  Regular telephone conversations are used to discuss students’ difficulties and frustrations, brainstorm about possible work/learning projects, and maintain student-faculty contact.

More information on Admissions

Students Can Participate in Seminars by Tele-Conference from a Distance

All WISR seminars are available both by telephone conference call, and online video conferences, in real time. Sometimes, these seminars are supplemented by web-based online sharing of documents and notes in real-time. Students and faculty on site at WISR and those students on their phone line, or who have accessed the meeting by video conference over the internet from afar, are able to interact and discuss issues, ideas and questions with one another.

Foreign Students—No ESL Instruction, no I-20 status available, but assistance in obtaining permission to visit:

WISR does admit students from other countries.  However, WISR does not provide English as a Second Language, or English as a Foreign Language, instruction.  All instruction, and all recruitment of students, is conducted in English.  Some students who are not native English speakers, but who are fluent in English, have enrolled and successfully completed programs at WISR.

Prospective students whose native language is not English and who have not earned a degree from an appropriately accredited institution where English is the principal language of instruction may be considered for admission at WISR, if they demonstrate college-level proficiency in English through one of the following for admission:

  1. Master’s Degree: A minimum total score of 60 on the paper-delivered Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL PBT), or 71 on the Internet Based Test (iBT); 6.5 on the International English Language Test (IELTS); 50 on the Pearson Test of English Academic Score Report; 100 on the Duolingo English Test; or 55 on the 4-skill Michigan English Test (MET), or 650/LP on the Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (ECCE), or 650/LP on the Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE)
  2. First Professional Degree or Professional Doctoral Degree: A minimum score of 65 on the paper-delivered Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL PBT), or 80 on the Internet Based Test (iBT); 6.5 on the International English Language Test (IELTS); 58 on the Pearson Test of English Academic Score Report; 105 on the Duolingo English Test; or 55 on the 4-skill Michigan English Test (MET), or 650/LP on the Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (ECCE), or 650/LP on the Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE).
  3. A minimum score on the College Board Accuplacer ESL Exam Series as follows: ESL Language Use: Score of 85 ESL Listening: Score of 80 ESL Reading: Score of 85 ESL Sentence Meaning: Score of 90 ESL Writeplacer: Score of 4
  4. A minimum grade of Pre-1 on the Eiken English Proficiency Exam;
  5. A minimum B-2 English proficiency level identified within the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) standards and assessed through various ESOL examinations, including the University of Cambridge;
  6. A transcript indicating completion of at least 30 semester credit hours with an average grade of “C” or higher at an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or accepted foreign equivalent that is listed in the International Handbook of Universities where the language of instruction was English. A “B” or higher is required for master’s degree, first professional degree, or professional doctoral degree.

Students whose native language is not English and who do not meet the above requirements may NOT be admitted provisionally. They must meet the above standards.

WISR’s admissions process helps all prospective students to assess their skills, learning needs and interests, and aids faculty and the prospective student in determining whether or not WISR can meet his or her educational needs.  Enrollment at WISR does not provide foreign students with I-20 status (i.e., WISR students do not qualify for foreign student visas.).  However, WISR has and will vouch for a student’s enrollment status and verify that WISR requires all students studying from a distance to visit WISR for a few days every year or so.  By so vouching and verifying, WISR is usually able to assist foreign students in obtaining permission to visit the United States for a brief period, for this purpose.