Great Plains IDEA Online Programs

Great Plains IDEA Online Degrees and Certificates

Online BA (Early Care and Education), MA (Youth Development and Family Community Services) and Graduate Certificates (Youth Development) with a positive, strength-based approach.

HDFS offers several online options for continuing education, including:

Focus of Programs

These programs address the need for advanced education in early childhood, youth development and working with families using a ecological approach with a strengths-based curriculum. These programs train students to administer programs which support children, youth and their families across the lifespan.

Cooperating Universities

Michigan State University is a member of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA) which is part of a multi-state alliance of accredited universities offering fully online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the human sciences.  Several universities share knowledge through a body of faculty with expertise in the areas. It allows each campus to contribute unique course offerings to the degree programs and student have access to experts in the field regardless of location.  For instance, MSU faculty in the area of early care and education have been awarded grants to study and create innovative online learning strategies to work with children.

The Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance or Great Plains IDEA ( is different than other online universities in that:

  • The curriculum is developed by inter-institutional faculty teams at Research 1 institutions.  The degrees are not just a collection of classes.
  • All courses and programs receive full institutional review prior to implementation and meet the rigorous institutional academic standards of all member schools. 
  • Courses are taught by Professors with expertise and research interests in content areas.
  • Students seeking admission must meet institutional admissions standards.  Students must apply and be accepted to Michigan State University as an undergraduate or graduate student candidate.

In addition to Michigan State University, other participating institutions in these programs include:

  • Colorado State University
  • Iowa State University
  • Kansas State UniversityGreat Plains IDEA logo
  • Montana State University
  • North Dakota State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • South Dakota State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Who is in the Programs?

These programs are ideal for professionals in a variety of early childhood, child, family and youth-related fields and organizations, such as preschool teaching, Head Start, 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, military installations, community recreation facilities, correctional professions, middle and high school education and extension educators. 

Persons with professional or teacher certifications should check PRIOR to enrolling with your State's Department of Education and any licensing or accrediting agencies to verify that the degree program will be recognized and credited toward renewing your professional licensure or certification. 

For Military-Affiliates

The Military Academic Achievement Program (MAAP) is a collaboration funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Department of Defense. The program provides education for careers on and around military bases that fit the professional development of active duty military, spouses, dependents, retirees, veterans and civilian professionals serving the military.  The Great Plains IDEA alliance has worked closely with the Department of Defense to create degree programs to increase professional development and workforce development opportunities, expand and strengthen programs in early childhood education, family readiness and youth development for military affiliated persons.

More information on the Military Academic Achievement Program is available by clicking on the MAAP link in the left navigation menu of this page and/or you may request a brochure by emailing: 

Format of Courses

All classes are delivered online and there are no on-campus meetings.  Professors communicate with students via e-mail, phone calls, Skype, Zoom and other technologies using an asynchronous format.  Courses use online lectures, discussion boards, wikis, audio, video and more.  Persons with disabilities are not disadvantaged and are encouraged to participate and seek accomodations through the Resouce Center for Persons with Disabilities. Students have 6 years to complete their graduate degree program. 


Youth Development and Family Community Services applications are accepted three times each year. Please visit our application page at:

Early Care and Education non-traditional undergraduates go to:  This is a limited enrollment major and you must have 30 applicable credits completed, with a minimum of 2.5 overall gpa and have access to an early childhood classroom for the three required practica to be considered for admission to MSU.  Meeting this criteria does not guarantee admission.  This degree is not available to typical undergraduates.

Michigan State University will not be offering certain online programs to students based on their residence at the time of application for admission to Michigan State University - see State-By-State Summary

Applicants or students enrolling in any course or program shall be notified if graduates of the program in which they are enrolling qualify to sit for any licensure, licensure exam, third party certification, third party certification exam, or similar credential related to the program’s field of study. This notice shall be clearly stated and given regardless of whether or not the license, certification, or other credential is required for entry into the student’s chosen field of study or occupation. The notification shall be in writing and signed or otherwise acknowledge by the student.

Professional Licensure. Michigan State University has not determined whether online or hybrid courses or programs meet the requirements for professional licensure outside the state of Michigan. Applicants or students need to contact the applicable licensing board(s) in the states they wish to purse licensure before seeking admission or beginning study in a course or program.


There is a flat rate tuition for these programs, so there are no in-state/out-of-state fees.  The tuition for 2015-2016 is  $380.00 per credit for undergraduate credit hours and $530.00 per credit hour for graduate credit.

Current Students

Current Great Plains IDEA students should review the Student Handbook for the Great Plains IDEA programs in general, and the one specific to their program by logging into the Great Plains IDEA for Students community in Desire2Learn or clicking here

Contact Person

For more information please contact the MSU Great Plains IDEA Campus Coordinator:  Karen Mills, 552 W. Circle Drive, 14 Human Ecology Building, 517-432-9225 or You can also view videos about the field and courses on our YouTube channel by searching for: Great Plains IDEA at MSU .You Tube Icon