Online education grows 30 percent at the University of Nebraska
The University of Nebraska announced today that online education at NU’s distance learning platform, Online Worldwide, grew nearly 30 percent last year – a trend that coincides with new national data showing rapid growth in college students’ interest in online learning.
Online Worldwide
NU’s progress in distance education was reported to the Board of Regents today. President James B. Milliken said the growth demonstrates that the university is making progress toward the key goal of Online Worldwide: expanding access to education to more Nebraskans.

“Online learning is the fastest-growing segment of higher education today, and the University of Nebraska is leveraging its historical expertise in this area to make a high-quality, affordable education available to students no matter where they live,” Milliken said. “Online Worldwide will be a key tool in increasing the level of educational attainment in Nebraska in order to ensure our state’s economic competitiveness – a goal I and many other state and education leaders share.”

According to Online Worldwide Director Arnold Bateman, in 2009-2010, students generated 87,820 credit hours in online courses offered through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska at Kearney. That was a 28.3 percent increase over 2008-2009, when students generated 68,435 credit hours online.

Unduplicated headcount enrollment in distance education programs at UNL, UNO and UNK was 20,774 in 2009-2010, a 26 percent increase over the previous year. Another 396 students generated 10,313 online credit hours through the University of Nebraska Medical Center School of Allied Health Professions in 2009-2010. These figures are not included in the overall growth figures because comparable data for the previous year is not available.

School of Allied Health Professions online programs that will soon be available via Online Worldwide include bachelor’s degree completion programs in radiation science technology and clinical laboratory science, and master’s degree completion programs in physician assistant studies and perfusion science.

“These programs allow practicing health care professionals to expand their skills in their chosen discipline while remaining employed and in their home communities. Students entering these programs already hold entry-level degrees and are seeking professional advancement,” said Janice Tompkins, assistant professor and director of distance education in the School of Allied Health Professions. “Online programs through UNMC’s School of Allied Health Professions help to build and sustain the allied health workforce in Nebraska.”

Rapid growth in online programs is occurring on a national scale as well. A new report by the Sloan Consortium and the Babson Survey Research Group shows that online college enrollment grew by a record 21 percent last fall – well above the 2 percent growth rate in the overall higher education student population. The report also found that nearly 30 percent of all U.S. college students now take at least one course online.

According to Bateman, UNK has the highest share of online-only students – that is, students who are not also enrolled in on-campus courses. About 69 percent of UNK’s distance education students are online-only, compared to 30 percent for UNL and 26 percent for UNO, Bateman said. Growing the number of online-only students is an important goal for the university as it seeks to expand access to education even further.

“We know that 265,000 Nebraskans have completed some college but have not earned a degree,” Milliken said. “Online learning is a great way to reach many of these Nebraskans, who may not be in a position to enroll in traditional on-campus programs.”

Milliken added, “It is increasingly clear that the key to an individual’s ability to be competitive in today’s job market is a postsecondary degree. Online Worldwide offers more than 80 degree and certificate programs that can advance an individual’s career, income potential and quality of life.”

One of Online Worldwide’s newest programs is a bachelor’s degree completion program in business administration, offered through UNK. The program is ideal for working adults looking to advance their careers with enhanced skills and knowledge and for community college graduates who want to continue their education. Graduates of the program often launch careers in management, human relations, marketing, sales or information technology.

“Online learning is an integral part of the University of Nebraska’s mission,” said Gloria Vavricka, who directs distance education programs at UNK. “Our online courses are high-quality, affordable and an excellent option for nontraditional students or students who are unable to attend classes on campus. One of the hallmarks of Online Worldwide courses is that students and faculty have a high degree of one-on-one interaction – just as they do on campus.”

Nationally recognized programs available at Online Worldwide include a Master of Public Administration degree offered through UNO. It is the recognized graduate degree for professional positions in the public and nonprofit sectors, said John Bartle, director of the UNO School of Public Administration.

With training in leadership and management, MPA alumni have built careers as legislators, executive directors, agency heads, community organizers, city managers, budget analysts, philanthropy directors and more.

“UNO’s online MPA offers the same high-quality curriculum as on campus,” Bartle said. “Courses are small and highly interactive, and are taught by full-time faculty who are leading scholars with extensive practitioner experience. This degree is the pathway to a career focused on solving public problems and managing public and nonprofit organizations effectively.”

Online Worldwide’s doctoral degree programs in educational studies, educational leadership and higher education, offered through UNL, also are nationally known and highly competitive. Many other education and educational administration programs are available at Online Worldwide as well.

“The educational degree programs, certificates and endorsements available through Online Worldwide will help prepare the next generation of education leaders – teachers, principals and administrators,” said Larry Dlugosh, professor and chair of the Department of Educational Administration at UNL.

“These high-quality, affordable programs are ideal for those who want to learn new skills and advance their careers while continuing to balance other obligations. Online learning is perfectly attuned to the needs of 21 st -century leaders.”

Other nationally recognized online programs include:

  • A Master of Science degree in biology offered through UNK that is targeted to scientists, researchers, and high school and middle school teachers.
  • UNL’s Master of Business Administration degree, an Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited program that is sought after by working adults seeking to enhance their employment options and increase their earning capacity. The program teaches future business leaders managerial skills, team building, ethics and leadership.

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