Mizzou Online one step in MU’s eLearning mission

Mizzou Online opens opportunities for students unable to physically attend MU.

The best part of college can be the campus experience — a new town to explore, new people to meet and a sense of independence not found at home. But when factors such as employment constrain students, MU still has an option available.

Mizzou Online is a program that gives students who can’t physically be in Columbia access to MU courses through the Internet.

“(Mizzou Online) is designed to provide educational programs via available information technologies, and there’s a wide range that we use to make Mizzou available and accessible,” Interim Vice Provost for eLearning Jim Spain said. “You can live in San Diego, California or California, Missouri and have access to Mizzou’s academic program.”

Former UM System President Gary Forsee sought to increase eLearning opportunities throughout the system.

“One of the goals (Forsee) wanted for us to achieve was for us to go out and support the campuses to develop their own eLearning infrastructure and programs we can pull new students into our campuses,” said Zac March, the director of eLearning and distance education for the UM System.

Spain said Mizzou Online represents an administrative reorganization. MU Direct, the Center for Distance and Independent Study and a marketing team have merged into one unit.

Associate professors Leona Rubin and John David will head a faculty panel that has been formed to make recommendations to the Faculty Council regarding policies that will govern online education.

The system has brought in instructional designers to help faculty convert face-to-face courses to an online format. MU has a team of nine of these individuals, one of which is funded by the system.

“If a faculty member has never taught online or has been teaching for 15 years and doesn’t know how online works, these instructional designers can sit down with them and work with them hand to hand to get their courses either 100 percent online or a blend (of online and face-to-face),” March said.

Mizzou Online has expanded since its inception. In the last five years, the program has grown from approximately 330 courses to more than 550. The program has also gained more than 4,000 students since 2006.

“Ten years ago, we had 11 HLC-accredited degrees, certificate and specialist programs,” Spain said. “Today, we have over 50.”

Spain said the College of Education and the Sinclair School of Nursing have the largest selection of courses. MU also has an online bachelor of health sciences degree, which caters to health care professionals who are seeking more advanced training in their field, but are place-bound by their job.

Other degrees offered by Mizzou Online include graduate courses in education, which cater to teachers who want to get advanced training in a specific area or convert to school administration.

Although MU is second in the Big 12 in total online courses offered, Spain said it is not the main mission to become an overall leader in the field, but rather to make MU’s educational programs available across the state. Spain said about 6,600 of 8,400 of Mizzou Online’s students are from the state of Missouri.

“We’re just trying to provide access to citizens who want to have a degree from the University of Missouri,” Spain said.

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