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UW System consolidates online education

The UW System has offered classes online for years. But finding them wasn't always easy. Now that information's consolidated at a new website, eCampus. Officials hope it will help increase the number of degree holders in Wisconsin.

The UW System has offered classes online for years. But finding them wasn't always easy. Now that information's consolidated at a new website, eCampus. Officials hope it will help increase the number of degree holders in Wisconsin.

The prevalence of online learning is a sign of the times in a digital age. But it's also UW's response to highly popular -- and now highly scrutinized --- for-profit online institutions. The quality of some for-profit colleges has come under fire. UW officials say the online classes found on its new eCampus site are of the same caliber as those taught in a traditional classroom.

David Schejbal, dean of UW Extension's Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning division, says this isn't a "watered down version" of a UW degree, nor is it a surrogate.

"It's a real degree offered in the online arena," he says.

Only a quarter of Wisconsin residents have a bachelor's degree. Part of the UW System's Growth Agenda is to increase that number. President Kevin Reilly says eCampus will help boost the number of degree holders, which is below the national average.

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"Over the next 15 years we're looking to change that," says Reilly. "We just pledged to increase degree holders by 30 percent."

Officials say the virtual classroom is a way to attract non-traditional students who may not have the time or ability to get on campus. And one UW-Superior professor, Gregory Trudeau, says it facilitates class discussion. Posting comments allows more time to think, he says, and can elevate discussion. It also allows a comfortable forum for students who might be too shy to speak up in person. eCampus provides online access to more than 70 degree and certificate programs in the UW System.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONSUPERIOR
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