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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

UVa board discusses increased online learning opportunities | The Daily Progress

Photo: Lauren Berg
"At a retreat meeting Saturday, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors explored ways to enhance online learning and other digital opportunities for students at UVa" summarizes Lauren Berg, reporter for The Daily Progress.

As more and more schools across the country — including Penn State, the University of Georgia and Liberty University — offer more online courses and certificates, the technology provides opportunities for a wider variety of students to pursue their education.

To explore how UVa might better serve its current and future students, Kristin Palmer, director of online learning programs at the university, presented different ways in which universities and colleges utilize online learning — including enhancing the education of residential students and offering online learning opportunities for off-campus students.

Kristin Palmer
Contributed Photo

At some schools, Palmer said, changes in the type of education people are seeking have shaped the way they offer online options. More and more people, she said, are returning to college to further their education in specific skills to advance their careers. For example, students in their 30s and 40s are taking computer science classes to keep up with the rapidly advancing technology, Palmer said.

Other schools offer degrees and programs that guarantee a job after the student has fulfilled their educational obligations. Still other schools offer a variety of online micro-credential and certificate classes for people who need to quickly and easily gain a marketable skill.

Currently, UVa offers more than 50 online courses, 20 certificates and five degrees, according to Palmer. The school also supports Massive Open Online Courses, which are often free to the public and cover everything from psychology and philosophy to mathematics and computer science.

Still in the brainstorming phase, UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan said at Saturday’s meeting that the first step would be to research the market and determine what would and would not work for UVa. She said online curriculum support for students will be very important, as will options for nontraditional students.

“We’re willing to think outside the box,” Sullivan said. “The sweet spot is that there is so much new knowledge and people beyond college age want it.”