COLUMBIA — MU will invest $2.5 million toward creating new online degree and certificate programs in the next year.
In total, MU is expected to make an investment of nearly $5 million toward Mizzou Online over the next 24 to 36 months, said Jim Spain, MU vice provost for undergraduate studies and interim vice provost for e-learning.
The $2.5 million comes from reserve funds that have accumulated during the past 20 years through MU Direct and the Center for Distance and Independent Study, two programs that have been merged to create Mizzou Online.
MU plans to add 10 to 15 online degree programs by 2014 with the new investment, according to an MU News Bureau release.
Currently, MU offers more than 690 courses and 66 degree and certificate programs — including five bachelor’s degrees and 33 master’s degrees — that can be completed entirely online, Spain said.
In the past five years, the number of students enrolled in distance courses through MU has doubled; last year, 18 of MU’s 19 schools and colleges offered degrees, certificates or individual courses online, according to the 2011-12 distance education enrollment report released Friday.
Last year, Mizzou Online offered online classes to more than 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in online courses.
Spain said he thinks making MU more accessible played a major role in the decision to invest in the expansion.
New programs that offer online courses will be able to apply for the funding, a maximum of $250,000. The first allotments will be awarded in February 2013 and will be used to start up the online curriculum.
About 60 percent of the revenue from online courses will go back to the departments that host them, while the rest will cover operating costs, Spain said.
"There’s a couple of outcomes: The primary outcome is that certificate and degree programs will become more accessible to students," Spain said. "Secondly, it will make courses more available to our off-campus students."
Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science, said his goal is to offer enough courses online so that students can complete a bachelor’s degree of general studies or interdisciplinary studies completely online. Then students taking online courses would be able to graduate with a degree in the same amount of time as students taking courses on campus.
"By this time next year, I want to be able to assure a student who wants to do an interdisciplinary degree or a bachelor's of general studies, a BGS, he or she can do it online," O'Brien said. "That could be a student in some small town in rural Missouri who can't come to the university but desperately wants a degree. He or she ought to have that opportunity."
O'Brien said he wants to make sure students know MU has interdisciplinary online degrees.
"I don't want to look at this as any kind of money-making operation — in fact, it won't be," he said. "What we want to do is to make sure that students have that option."