University of Nebraska distance learning initiatives continue significant growth

The University of Nebraska is continuing its success in expanding distance education initiatives that meet the needs of students and help to build a skilled workforce for Nebraska, according to a report presented today to the Board of Regents.

The University of Nebraska is continuing its success in expanding distance education initiatives that meet the needs of students and help to build a skilled workforce for Nebraska, according to a report presented today to the Board of Regents.

“If Nebraska is to remain competitive, we will need to significantly increase the number of students who enter college and earn a degree. Online learning is a key strategy to achieving those goals,” said Mary Niemiec, associate vice president for distance education and director of the University of Nebraska Online Worldwide. “I’m very proud that we’re continuing to see such strong growth and interest in University of Nebraska online programs. We’re excited about doing even more to expand high-quality, flexible education to students in Nebraska and beyond to meet the needs of today’s economy.”

Among the university’s recent successes in distance learning:

  • The number of academic credit hours produced by distance-only students – a key metric monitored by the Board – grew 10 percent in 2013-14, to almost 67,000. More than two-thirds of those credit hours were generated by Nebraskans, indicating that the university’s online programs are meeting the needs of people in the state, particularly the 290,000 who have completed some college but have not earned a degree. Headcount enrollment of distance-only students also grew 16 percent, to 7,600, with each campus seeing growth.
  • Total online credit hour production grew 26 percent in 2013-14, to nearly 174,000. Each campus saw growth. About one-third of NU degree-seeking students took at least one course online last year, illustrating their growing demand for flexible options that help them stay on the path to a degree.
  • The university continues to expand options available to students within the 100-plus degree, certificate and endorsement programs accessible through NU Online Worldwide so that students can pursue a program tailored to their interests and career aspirations. For example, the 20 undergraduate degree programs offered by the NU campuses now offer 23 unique specializations and six minors. The university will continue to develop new offerings, leveraging the shared resources and expertise of the four campuses, as workforce needs evolve.
  • NU’s partnership with Coursera, announced last year, has resulted in the creation of the university’s first massive open online course (MOOC) – a course on health literacy and communications taught by a University of Nebraska Medical Center faculty member. The course begins Oct. 19 and already has 3,700 registrations. The university will continue to explore opportunities to make course content available to many more individuals via MOOCs.
  • The University of Nebraska High School is growing to better serve students and schools across the state. The high school now offers three dual-credit courses jointly with the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The university continued its Virtual Scholars program in 2013-14, providing 100 scholarships to students around the state – many of them from rural areas – to take University of Nebraska High School courses for free. The university plans to expand Virtual Scholars to expand access to quality, flexible high school courses to even more students, particularly those who are from traditionally underrepresented groups, to help them be more college- and career-ready.

Niemiec noted that the university’s online programs also continue to be recognized nationally both for their high quality and service to veterans. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s online bachelor’s degree and graduate programs in business, education and engineering ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s best online programs, as did UNO’s bachelor’s program.

Additionally, in its “best for vets” rankings, U.S. News ranked UNL’s online Master of Business Administration program and graduate programs in education No. 2 in the country, leading the Big Ten in each category. UNO’s online Bachelor of General Studies ranked No. 7 among all bachelor’s programs. UNO also was ranked No. 2 in the country for military friendliness by Military Times magazine.

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