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Grant will help expand MU's online degree programs

Friday, February 8, 2013 | 4:28 p.m. CST; updated 5:19 p.m. CST, Friday, February 8, 2013

COLUMBIA — Public health, hospitality management, biomedical sciences and nursing leadership and entrepreneurship are among 16 programs that will expand into online offerings for MU students.

The recipients of a $2.5 million online learning initiative were announced Friday at Reynolds Alumni Center. The investment is intended to increase the accessibility of undergraduate and graduate programs at MU.

The other areas are: geospatial intelligence, education studies, education quality management, college teaching, energy efficiency, architectural studies, public affairs, nonprofit management, public management, health communication, interactive media and health systems innovation.

"We are pleased to begin offering online programs in these in-demand subject areas," MU Provost Brian Foster said at the announcement. "Producing graduates with the skill sets and preparation needed to advance these industries is at the core of our mission at the University of Missouri."

MU offers five undergraduate degree programs and 61 graduate certificate and degree programs in part or completely online. The addition of these programs will increase Mizzou Online offerings to nearly 90, with eight undergraduate degree programs and 79 graduate certificates and degree programs offered in part or completely online.

A theme among the speakers at the announcement was that investment in Mizzou Online reflects a growing trend in online education. In 2012, one-third of higher education students in the United States took an online class, College of Education Dean Daniel Clay said.

"New online degrees and certificates will allow, for example, a teacher in Mill Spring, Mo., a town of 203 people, to stay there, work full time and fulfill their dream to become a principal or superintendent," Clay said.

He said "hundreds of studies" have found that online education student learning outcomes are just as good, if not better than face-to-face classes.

"The online courses will be taught by the same faculty as face-to-face courses," Foster said. "The diplomas they earn will be exactly the same."

It is not simple to convert degrees to online, Foster said. The new funds will help offset the start-up costs of developing an online curriculum, including hiring faculty and purchasing the necessary software.

The money used to fund the new programs is coming from current online education tuition revenue, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

Some of the new online programs will begin in the fall; the rest will begin in the spring of 2014.

"Offering online degrees and certificates is not a choice we had to make, it was made for us," Clay said. "But how we embrace it is our choice."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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