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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 feed-back 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 . . .

• A recent WISR PhD alumnus is a tenured professor of law in Boston.  As an Asian-American, he serves on community task forces which are fostering community dialogue to further multi-culturality in the greater Boston area.  His PhD 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 PhD student is a Nigerian who used his PhD studies at WISR to further social policy research aimed at redistributing the wealth from Nigerian oil resources to benefit impoverished communities there.

 Another recent PhD alumnus is originally from Cameroon, and now living in Bangladesh and working as Chair of the Department of Vocational and Technical Education at the Islamic University of Technology (IUT).  His studies at WISR are focused on evaluating and improving the technical education skills and knowledge of IUT’s students who will be returning to one of the over 50 countries represented among IUT’s student body.

• A faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, 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 PhDs 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 PhD 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. 

Disclosures and Requirements for WISR Students—regarding Online and Distance Learning . . . (June, 2018)

  1. A WISR faculty member will confer with each enrolling student to discuss the first steps and activities in their learning at WISR, whether the student is living at a distance from WISR, or not, within 7 days of the student’s date of enrollment. WISR uses a combination of online learning—through a Learning Management System (Google Education Suite)—and real time interaction between students and faculty, and among students. The real time interaction may be on site at WISR, by phone or by internet. All WISR seminars are offered by video/audio conference (accessed by either phone or internet), and most are simultaneously on site. At the moment, we use Zoom’s conference services. In addition, most seminars are recorded and available later, online, through WISR’s Google Education Suite.
  2. When first enrolling students, must verify their identity by showing an official ID with a photo (e.g., passport or driver’s license) and having a WISR official check their identity either in person or by video conference.
  3. WISR protects students’ privacy and students will be updated annually on WISR’s policies. WISR complies with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations, and we are currently in the initial stages of taking steps toward complying with the more stringent requirements of European Union’s GDPR laws (General Data Protection Regulation).
  4. For students learning at a distance and those residing locally, instruction centers on real time interaction between students and faculty—either face to face or by phone conference (the latter is used with local students from time to time as well as with students studying at a distance). Instruction is further aided asynchronous learning–by the use of online courses, especially through Google Education Suite, as well as sometimes by e-mail of communications, drafts of papers, and comments on drafts between students and faculty. All WISR students are required to obtain a wisr.edu email address, and they will be shown how to have those emails forwarded to the current, primary email address. Exceptions may sometimes be made for students only taking one course or several courses, rather than an entire degree program.
  5. All WISR students must have regular access to reliable internet services, and must have access to a computer with a web cam—this is required for video conferences during oral exams at the end of each course, and on two or three other occasions during each student’s pursuit of a WISR degree. WISR seminars are conducted on site and be video conference, although students may in some cases access these seminars by phone rather than internet/video conference. Headsets for participating in video conferences may improve the quality of the audio, but are not necessarily required.
  6. Students are responsible to back up drafts of their papers, and especially of theses and dissertations—through the Google Drive available with their wisr.edu email address. No student wants to write several pages of work, much less dozens or hundreds of pages, and lose their writing if their computer crashes. It does happen!
  7. Students are required to respond to two to four annual surveys from WISR—this is important part of WISR’s ongoing commitment to improving our curriculum and instruction and to sustaining WISR as a quality and valuable institution of higher learning. Usually, there will be at least two surveys during the summer—one to evaluate WISR faculty and their teaching performance, and another to evaluate WISR’s contributions to each student’s learning and to elicit suggestions for improvement. Sometimes, there will be one or two other surveys each year—for example, as part of WISR’s Strategic Planning Process. Students may count the time spent responding to surveys as part of their required hours of collaboration for WISR courses.
  8. As stated in WISR’s enrollment agreement, a Full Refund may be obtained by withdrawing within 7 days of the beginning of an enrollment agreement, or at the student’s first meeting with a WISR faculty person to plan and begin their studies for their educational program, whichever is later. Since all students meet with a faculty member within 7 days, they will still have the 7-day period in which to cancel and receive a full refund.
  9. Faculty feed-back to students learning at a distance and submitting drafts for comment follows principles of diligent reading of student drafts and papers and responding thoughtfully in a timely fashion. Faculty make every effort to give students rapid feedback on drafts of papers and theses. Typically, faculty give students feedback on papers and other drafts 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 once every week or two, as needed 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.
  10. All WISR students are expected to have a high degree of self-motivation and capability for self-directed learning and are expected to contact faculty for support and assistance, whenever they feel they need it.
  11. Students have access to the online database paid or by WISR, by going to https://www.lirn.net/databases and entering the password 58879. By the terms of our agreement with LIRN you cannot share this information with anyone outside of WISR.

In addition, by signing this document, the student agrees to respect all copyright laws, which includes, but is not limited to the following considerations:

  • None of the content shared in WISR’s online courses may not be shared with anyone other than students and faculty at WISR, unless it is explicitly stated that it can be shared under open access, Creative Commons licensing.
  • When using resources from LIRN, from ScribD, online data bases accessed through professional association memberships or library card/memberships, students may not copy and share any of those materials, unless explicitly stated as open access under Creative Commons licensing.
  • When writing papers, or making posts on the online forum, students are to cite and reference their sources. For assistance in using the proper format, consult Easy Bib (easybib.com)
  • Students having any questions about copyright issues and the sharing of articles and/or videos, should contact WISR’s librarian (roberson@wisr.edu), WISR’s CEO (john.bilorusky@wisr.edu) , or another faculty member for guidance.
  1. WISR students are expected to collaborate with other students at WISR, and these expectations and requirements are outlined in each course.
  2. Students should expect to spend about $50 to $100 on books (or e-books) for each course. In addition, all students are required to:
  • purchase and maintain a monthly membership in ScribD (access to many required readings—books and articles, for $9/month.  www.scribd.com),
  • purchase a membership in a major professional association such as the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (www.camft.org), American Educational Research Association, or American Sociological Association. (These fees are typically less than $150/year.) Depending on the student’s interests, faculty may approve a membership in another association, instead.  All MFTs students must obtain a membership in CAMFT, because, among other things, this provides access to psychology journals through the EBSCO library online data base.
  • if a California resident, the student must obtain a free library card (but requires a visit on site) to either the San Francisco or Los Angeles Public Library.  This card entitled the holder to access to important added online library data bases (off site, need not be at the library), as well as, to thousands of films and videos available through Kanopy (www.kanopy.com), and some of these films are required viewing for many WISR courses. WISR will provide other access to limited number of Kanopy films, but at least to those that are required, to students who are not California residents, if the student is not able to obtain access through another library

[Upon Enrollment, students will sign that they are aware of the above stated disclosures and requirements as well as #14 and #15 below]

  1. By signing this, the student states that she or he understands that WISR provides no English language services for those for whom English is their second language, and by signing this, the student affirms that “I am stating that I am fluent in reading, speaking and writing in the English language.” [Students who do not have a previous college degree from an institution in which English was the primary language of instruction must take and pass a TOEFL exam.]
  2. By signing this, the student attests that he or she has read the WISR catalog and/or the information on the website.

In addition, the student acknowledges and accepts the terms and conditions regarding privacy of their student records, with permitted public access to the products of their academic inquiry, unless the student specifies otherwise. See section on Student Records.

[before enrolling, the student reads this disclosure, and attests that: “I have read, the above, and understand the terms, conditions and expectations of students for learning at WISR.”]

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, 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 maintain regular online, and phone or video conference contact with WISR faculty, and to participate in seminars from time to time.  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.

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.  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.



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