CDIS and MU Direct merge to form Mizzou Online

The collaboration began this fall.

In its centennial year of offering distance learning services, MU combined its Center for Distance and Independent Study with MU Direct: Continuing and Distance Education to create Mizzou Online.

MU Extension, which formerly housed the two departments, has been discussing the merger since spring 2010.

“We wanted to give students, faculty and staff one place to contact for distance education needs,” said Stacy Snow, Mizzou Online interim director of marketing. “We wanted to lessen confusion about who to call.”

CDIS, originally part of MU Extension, has offered asynchronous, self-paced courses since 1911 as part of MU’s land-grant mission to make higher education accessible and affordable for those who cannot study in Columbia. Students can take up to nine months to complete a CDIS course and can enroll at any time. Although CDIS courses were once facilitated by mail, courses are now exclusively online.

MU Direct emerged in the 1990s with the birth of other online degree programs worldwide. Students take courses synchronized with MU’s semester schedule. While some courses are completely online, others are “hybrid,” meaning students must travel to Columbia or a satellite location for face-to-face classroom instruction throughout the semester.

Mizzou Online provides all former CDIS and MU Direct services and assumes the former role of the two departments as a facilitator between MU and distance learning students. Mizzou Online works with each school or college to administer more than 500 courses and more than 70 programs from undergraduate through doctoral levels.

CDIS and MU Direct moved from the MU Extension office to its current location in the provost’s office in Dec. 2010 to form closer relations with campus offices.

“What we do is now very much a part of what the university does,” Mizzou Online interim co-director Gera Burton said. “It’s a reflection of the times and the so-called disruptive technology.”

The merger complies with a proposal in MU’s strategic plan, "One Mizzou: 2020 Vision for Excellence," which strives to create a seamless system of high-quality courses and degree programs using flexible delivery systems.

As part of this initiative, professors Leona Rubin and John David will lead a Faculty Task Force that will begin meeting in September to develop improvements for Mizzou Online. The Faculty Task Force will host a series of faculty forums throughout the year to collect input and create resulting policy recommendations.

After enrolling more than 8,000 distance learning students during the 2010-11 academic year and doubling its number of distance learning students in the past five years, MU is continuing to expand Mizzou Online’s services. In addition to discussing expansion of bachelor’s degree completion programs, MU signed an articular agreement with Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield and the College of Business will begin accepting applications in January for its new hybrid Executive MBA program.

“We anticipate that we will see the number of options expand and the number of students expand,” Interim Vice Provost for eLearning Jim Spain said.

Snow said she hopes Mizzou Online’s new website will be running by the end of the academic year. Until then, students will continue to work through the separate CDIS and MU Direct websites. Current students will not experience changes in their services.

“We are giving students more choices, convenience and flexibility,” Burton said. “We want our students to have the best learning experience we can provide.”

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