Dr. Richard Belcastro, Dean, College of Online Education (COE) at Life University

Dr. Richard Belcastro has been the Dean of the College of Online Education(COE) at Life University (Life U) for a little more than five years. He was drawn to Life U because of the opportunity to begin building an online school from the ground up. Dr. Belcastro has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a specialization in Special Education, a Master’s Degree in Education Administration and a Doctorate Degree in Special Education with a minor in Education Administration, all from West Virginia University.

“When I saw the position at Life U, it gave me the opportunity to start from scratch and build something that, in my opinion, would be special,” said Dr. Belcastro. “Judging from my experience in my previous position, I knew how to be effective and increase student success, and I wanted to bring that to a whole new group of students. Life U presented a unique opportunity. The College of Online [Education] wasn’t even here when I came on. It was just online programs. I wanted to be able to start from that, build that foundation and begin building on it at a new institution that hadn’t experienced it before, which was Life U.”

The College of Online Education was created at Life U in order to be competitive and offer similar programs to other higher education institutions. An online education at Life U is different from other institutions because the classes are not held in real-time, meaning students can take courses at their own convenience, which helps with scheduling conflicts.

There are project and course deadlines set that must be met, but a student does not need to sign on at a specific time. Instead, the student is allowed to weave courses into their schedule on their own time, giving them asynchronous studies that make life more flexible. Main campus students are also able to take online classes, and they do, often from the comfort of their home, dorm, the Library or even a nearby café. Students can also live in another state and still receive an education and a Life U diploma, saving travel and moving expenses.

According to Dr. Belcastro, there are several reasons why Life U’s COE is different from other universities. To begin with, he pointed out that our full-time online faculty are not only experts in their field, but also very knowledgeable in online education. Dr. Belcastro noted that the faculty are very accommodating and work hard to ensure that students are successful. Faculty have a high “touch rate,” reaching out to all of their students in the first week of classes.

“Our faculty go the extra mile to make sure students feel comfortable with not only the material that is in the class, but also with the online format,” said Dr. Belcastro.

Another major difference is that Vitalism is integrated throughout the online curriculum, and starting 2022 Fall Quarter, there will be a new course devoted specifically to Physiology and Vitalism.

Dr. Belcastro is proud of the online course design. Life U does not purchase prepacked courses; instead, all of the courses are designed by people who work for the University. This ensures both academic integrity and comprehensive flow for each course. The University is also hiring a media producer to help create a more engaging experience for students tailored to their specific curriculum. The COE is continually looking toward these and other enhancements in order to meet the main goal of preparing students for their next steps, whether that means entering the job market, furthering their career or continuing on to the next level of their education.

The College of Online Education’s B.S. in Biology was ranked among the “15 Best Biology Online” in 2021 by the Bachelor’s Degree Center, and “Life U’s Online Master’s in Psychology Program has been ranked No. 3 for Best Online Master’s in Psychology Programs and was awarded the title of “Best for International Students” according to Intelligent.com.

“Life U’s online education is committed to you as a student being successful. I can’t emphasize that enough,” remarked Dr. Belcastro on what he would say specifically to prospective students who may be considering an online education at Life U. “We are deeply committed to students’ success. A student’s educational journey here at Life U is one that they do not embark on alone; it is one that is a partnership with us. We are there every step of the way providing support. It’s one thing to have a fantastic curriculum, instructors, courses and programs, which we do, but it’s another thing to recognize, even with all of that, students still need help sometimes, and we are here for them to help them accomplish that. If the student is not successful, we’re not successful. If you are a student considering Life U online, I am going to tell you that we are going to do everything possible within the relm of academic integrity and rigor to ensure that you are successful.”