UW Today

March 31, 2014

UW launches online bachelor’s degree completion program in social sciences

News and Information

Beginning in the fall 2014 people interested in social sciences, who have already earned roughly two years of college credit or an associate degree, will be able to finish their bachelor’s degree online through a new completion program offered by the University of Washington.

A large 'W' is at the north entrance to the UW campus.

The new bachelor’s degree completion program is a way of expanding UW access to students who need more flexibility in completing their college education.Vince Stricherz/UW

This is the second online-only bachelor’s degree completion program to be offered by the UW, following the Early Childhood & Family Studies degree announced last spring.

The program is intended to provide a flexible, lower-cost option for individuals who want to finish their degrees online without coming to campus.

“In this way, it promises to open university access to large numbers of students who have previously found it impossible to complete a bachelor’s degree,” said Matthew Sparke, the inaugural director of the program.

In Washington state, for example, nearly 1 million people – 21 percent of the state population – have two or more years of college behind them but have yet to finish a bachelor’s degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau surveys.

The Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Social Sciences curriculum will be taught by regular UW faculty. It will include popular upper level courses from across all the diverse disciplines comprising social sciences at UW, Sparke said.

“Our curriculum will provide a broad-based interdisciplinary education designed to give students the skills and knowledge they need to survive and thrive as citizens of a complex globalized world,” Sparke said.

“Students will also compile an electronic portfolio designed to both plan a personalized pathway to completing a bachelor’s and to curate a library of their best work that can subsequently be used to showcase achievements to employers and graduate schools,” he added.

The program costs $199 per credit – just under $9,000 per year for full-time study for residents of Washington state. Nonresidents will pay 10 percent more, about $219 per credit. None of the students will have to pay for the costs of living on campus, and no state funds will be used to support the program.

“This is a way of expanding UW access to students who are time- and place-bound, whose family or work commitments make it impossible for them to come to campus,” said Michael K. Young, UW president. “It is a way for them to finish their degrees and move ahead in life.”

Increasing access to UW resources is central to the university’s mission, Young said. “By adding online degree completion programs at a lower cost, we’re offering more opportunities for students to earn and benefit from a UW degree.”

The new program is not a MOOC – Massive Open Online Courses – which usually don’t offer course credit or a degree or very much in the way of student support, and which also tend to have high student attrition.

Rather, UW’s Integrated Social Sciences program has been designed with student degree-completion as the focus.

“This is about helping students complete their bachelor’s degrees,” Sparke said. “And that means offering supportive online mentoring that really gets them to the finish line. We want our students to feel personal success and pride in finishing college as Huskies, with all the distinction that a UW degree represents.”

The program will probably take most full-time students about two years to finish, though they could take longer if they are enrolled part-time.

Courses and curriculum include:

  • A series of traditional courses taught by UW professors, in subjects such as communication, economics, political science, geography, international studies and American ethnic studies.
  • Four core courses including an introductory course “Social Science Theory in Context.”
  • A digital capstone project, or portfolio, consisting of learning plans, articles, self-reflection essays, maps, diagrams, and other materials that document students’ achievements.
  • Participation in online advisory groups consisting of about 25 other students.

The advisory groups are intended to simulate on-campus experiences. “This is key for the degree: how to create community when students are only interacting online,” Sparke said. “A lot of learning that happens on campus occurs outside of class – in the student union building or quad – we needed to recreate this online.  And by doing so we also want to teach some of the online communication and self-presentation skills that graduates need for the 21st-century workplace.”

Students will be eligible to apply if they’ve earned 75 transferable college credits. Admission will be competitive and separate from other UW degree programs. Applications are now being accepted for the first student cohort, which will enroll in September 2014.

Learn more about the new Integrated Social Sciences program.

“I applaud the university for developing and launching this second online degree completion program,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. “If we are going to meet the educational needs of our state and grow our economy, it is critical that we offer innovative approaches to educate an increasingly diverse population of students. This degree offers an affordable, high-quality bachelor’s degree option for the nearly 1 million people with some college but no bachelor’s degree. I hope those who have dreamed of completing their college education will see this as an opportunity to take the next step in reaching their goals.”

The degree will be offered by the UW College of Arts and Sciences with the support of UW Professional & Continuing Education.

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For more information about the design of the degree contact Sparke at sparke@uw.edu, and for questions about entry requirements contact Mel Wensel, the director of student services and advising at wensel@uw.edu.

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