Three years ago, USC Aiken started offering upper-level business courses online “because there was a demand for it, and it actually helps students who can’t come to campus,” said Dr. Mike Ritchie, a business management professor.

He and other business professors, Dr. Leanne McGrath and Dr. Linda Rodriguez, have been revamping their online classes in conjunction with a major initiative that includes the University of South Carolina, USCA, USC Upstate and USC Beaufort.

Formally approved earlier this year, Palmetto College is an independent component of the USC system, giving non-traditional students the chances to earn a college degrees by obtaining 60 hours of upper-level classes.

USCA is offering business administration degrees, while the other campuses are providing other degree programs.

From the Columbia campus, students can earn degrees in elementary education, liberal studies and organizational leadership.

“We’re very excited,” Ritchie said of his colleagues, “and what a great accolade to let us do this. All of us have taught online before.”

Prospective students interested in business degrees can contact Academic Partnerships, visit the Palmetto College website or contact USCA’s Palmetto College advisory, Mary Claire Millies, at 803-641-3595.

Throughout his career, students have found Ritchie an outstanding and engaging professor. For years, he has told incoming freshmen how their mothers made them do their homework, woke them up and fed them before school, but at USCA, “You’re driving the bus,” Ritchie tells them.

With the help of the Faculty Technology Support Center, he has adjusted his online course. The other version did have quality, but he has added more gravitas, he said, because of the expectations for the new Palmetto College students. Still, Ritchie will never become boring. A green screen will shift the rotating background to the Roman Coliseum, the Harvard Law School and even the Hogwarts School – all available at 3 a.m. if that’s the only time a student can watch it.

“I’m having too much fun,” Ritchie said. “Just because you go online, it doesn’t mean you have to lose all that personality.”

He acknowledges that some observers have expressed concern about online opportunities and the potential of cheating. Ritchie’s tests have 60 quesitons and a hour to complete them, which wouldn’t give students a realistic time to flash through the textbook.

“But given the fact that these issues exist, it’s viable,” Ritchie said. “But I don’t think these people are going to cheat. They really want to learn, and I don’t have a problem with it.”