February 15, 2011

UW launches initiative to double online enrollments

News and Information

The UW has announced the UW Online Initiative, a multifaceted effort that expands online program access and will double online course enrollments to 24,000 within three years without using state funding.

Currently, the UW offers hundreds of online courses, including 15 master’s degrees and 26 certificates administered by Professional and Continuing Education without reliance on state funding.

The UW Online Initiative builds on this success to further increase access while reducing costs through four key strategies:  Expansion of online courses available to UW undergraduates, adoption of new online learning technologies, development of new grants and partnerships, and the formation of a strategic online learning advisory board.

In a successful pilot last year, UW undergraduates were able for the first time to register for online courses as part of their tuition load. Students paid a supplemental $350 fee rather than the $1450 they formerly paid for an online course.  The fee covers the cost of developing and delivering these programs without having to use state funding.

Students have reacted positively toward the courses, with 80 percent of survey respondents indicating they would recommend their online course to other students.  “The UW Online Initiative provides more flexibility to undergraduate students who may be working part-time or living off-campus,” said David Szatmary, vice provost for educational outreach.  “It also increases access to high-demand courses such as statistics.” As a result of the pilots success, UW plans to add up to 50 new online undergraduate courses over the next two years.

Through investment in innovative online learning technologies, UW looks to bolster the online learning experience by providing the latest interactive and social learning features in the least expensive way.  It recently began to use the free open source learning management system, Moodle, in an effort to eliminate expensive licensing fees.

The UW is aggressively seeking opportunities to fund the development of new online programs through partnership and grants.  Recently, the UW secured a Sloan Foundation grant for the development of an online undergraduate electrical engineering degree program at UW Bothell.  UW also coordinates the multiuniversity Actions, Solutions, Growth partnership in which universities jointly develop online programs to share costs and create a national market. For example, the UW, Northwestern University, University of British Columbia, and University of California, Berkeley jointly developed the online certificate in Decision Making for Climate Change.

To guide its growth in online education, UW recently formed a high-profile advisory board of some of the leading innovators in online learning. Board members represent Microsoft, the Gates Foundation, Google, Boeing, and the Sloan Foundation, among other organizations. The board will advise the UW on effective strategies to meet its online learning goals as well as the latest uses of technologies.

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For more information, contact Alison Koop, UW Professional and Continuing Education, 206-685-6344, or akoop@pce.uw.edu.