UWG Online: Ready for the Future
UWG Online recently garnered high marks in the first ever ranking of online programs by U.S. News and World Report.
It placed 26th in the nation for Online Student Services and Technology and 27th in the nation for Online Faculty Credentials and Training in the category of Online Bachelor’s Programs. UWG also ranked 14th in the nation for Student Engagement and Accreditation in the Online Graduate Nursing category and 18th for Student Engagement and Accreditation in the Online Graduate Business category.
The distinction illustrates that “greater scrutiny is going to be focused on online programs,” said Jason Huett, associate dean of Online Development and USG eCore.
Huett said “if universities wish to have a competitive position in the market place, they need to have a systemic plan for designing, developing, implementing and evaluating high-quality online programs. They also need a plan for supporting students and faculty in the process.”
Huett recently finished refining a position paper of UWG’s Online Degrees Task Force. The paper contains recommendations designed to establish the university as a leader in the field, increase the number of students and increase revenue. The recommendations will be presented to the President’s Advisory Committee in February.
“As an institution, we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Huett said. “We can focus on expanding our more traditional campus-based educational experience while still exploring flexible, innovative, and targeted online educational opportunities for new and underserved audiences -- to the mutual benefit of both.”
With eCore, the Web MBA program, online programs in education, criminology, computer science, nursing, the social sciences and others, UWG "has the best infrastructure and the best people" to meet the challenges, Huett said.
The work of the Online Degrees Task Force is timely. Georgia has its own plans to invigorate education and increase the number of people who continue their education beyond high school.
According to the Complete College Georgia Plan “new employers and new job creation are lost to other parts of the world. Existing employers begin to question the benefit of staying with a workforce that falls near the bottom of states inside a nation that lags behind most other developed countries in terms of education.”
According to the plan, eight years from now “60 percent of jobs in Georgia will require some form of a college education, whether a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. Today, only 42 percent of the state’s young adults, its burgeoning workforce, qualify.”
The state is determined to reach that 60 percent goal, according to the plan.
One way to reach that goal is to increase the availability of online courses, Huett said. This will help traditional students get their degrees and bring higher education to non-traditional students.
Advances in technology and changing student demographics mean that traditional students are only about 25 percent of the target audience, Huett said.
“What are we doing for the other 75 percent?”
There are enormous opportunities to develop online courses that can reach not only local and regional residents but international students as well. The biggest consumers could be service members. Huett noted that, according to published reports, the U.S. spends more than half a billion dollars every year on tuition assistance for its soldiers.
“Ideally, when someone in the military wants an education, I want them thinking UWG,” Huett said.
Huett said now is the time to take action to increase the visibility of UWG’s online programs, to help faculty members transform their face-to-face courses for the virtual world and give the online environment the support it needs to take off.
The rankings by U.S. News & World Report confirm “how fast things are changing, how important this is and that we are on the right track,” Huett said.
To see the rankings go to http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education.
To read the paper, “Grow West: A Strategic Plan for the Targeted Advancement of Online Teaching and Learning at UWG,” contact Huett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the state’s strategic plan, Complete College Georgia, go to http://www.usg.edu/educational_access/documents/GaHigherEducationCompletionPlan2012.pdf.
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