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UM System invests nearly $500,000 to expand online course development at four campuses

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John Fougere

Chief Communications Officer

University Relations

Jun 11, 2010

To expand access to college courses and degree programs for students across its four campuses, University of Missouri System officials today reported they have funded $482,000 in grants to faculty to develop 124 new online courses.

“Faculty members on our campuses realize that today’s college students learn in various ways and through various channels,” said Steve Graham, senior associate vice president for Academic Affairs. “Online learning provides students with additional accessibility to college courses while providing faculty an opportunity to teach in ways that leverage current technology. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The mix of undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as certificate programs, include courses in nursing, agroforestry, health ethics, dental hygiene, respiratory therapy, financial engineering, bioethics and criminology, among others.  Funding will be used for technical support to develop the courses, as well as for supplies, equipment and software. Depending on the nature of the proposal, some faculty members could receive stipends for their time in developing the courses.

“We currently have online courses in several areas systemwide, but these new courses expand the breadth of topics we offer,” Graham said. “This helps broaden the appeal for students, particularly those who balance work, school and family demands.”

In addition to the grants, the Academic Affairs Office also has funded at least one new instructional designer on each campus to help faculty develop quality online courses. A two-day faculty workshop was held last week to build a network of support utilizing faculty members experienced in teaching online and instructional designers.  The workshop discussed myths about online teaching as well as strategies to help faculty optimize technology in online courses. A similar workshop is planned for August.

“The demand for online courses continues to grow at an exponential rate for both traditional and nontraditional students,” said Ronald Phillips, associate professor of architectural studies. “Not only will this infusion of system resources allow the campuses to expand their online offerings, but many of the multimedia capabilities used in online learning can be applied to the traditional classroom, enriching that learning environment as well.”
eLearning is a University of Missouri System strategic priority. Drawing on the university’s mission as a land-grant institution, eLearning will help expand educational opportunities for students by making courses accessible whenever and wherever students are able to learn. Some of the technology used in eLearning strategies can be applied to traditional classrooms, as well.

Graham said funding for the eLearning initiative was achieved through internal expense reallocations at the System offices last year.  Faculty interested in developing new online courses applied for grant funding through a formal RFP process led by the Office of Academic Affairs. All faculty proposals were developed with the provosts on each campus to ensure they are aligned with campus goals and strategic priorities. The new courses will be ready for students within a year to 18 months.