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IU expands online programs

By Holly Hays

When IU President Michael McRobbie announced IU Online last fall, IU offered about 80 online programs. One year and $8 million later, IU Online is continuing to grow.

Expansion efforts grew IU’s online offerings to more than 100 programs and certificates as of August, said Judith Halstead, associate director of the Office of Online Education. Halstead said that number will increase further by fall 2014.   

Of the $8 million allocated to the expansion, at least $2 million will disseminate among the campuses to enhance or grow programs and certificates. The money will expend incrementally over the course of three years.

The remaining funds were used to fund additional designers, hardware expansion and the Office of Online Education, according to a press release.

The IU Bloomington campus has focused on growing and developing its online graduate degree and certificates programs. One of these programs is the recently-launched SPEA Connect program, which offers various online graduate programs throughout the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

According to Chad Dorshorst, assistant director of SPEA Connect, there are about 50 students enrolled in the academically selective program.

“We utilize the same admission standards as the residential program, and we’re very careful about who we admit to the program,” Dorshorst said. “We’re very pleased with the quality of students that we’ve gotten thus far.”

Dorshorst said the program has developed about 25 online courses at the graduate level and a handful of undergraduate courses. He said online students who complete 40 hours of coursework can receive the same Master of Public Administration degree on-campus students will receive.

Many of the SPEA Connect students are several years removed from their undergraduate degrees and are already working in full-time positions, Dorshorst said, adding students need the flexibility offered by online programming.

“You certainly can’t give up working for two years,” he said.

One of those students is Steve Donboch, who is working toward a MPA degree with a concentration in nonprofit management.

He said he was inspired to work in the nonprofit field to honor the memory of his daughter, Emslie, who suffered from Polycystic Kidney Disease. He said he would like to use his degree to work toward ending PKD.

Donboch received his undergraduate degree in business administration and marketing from the University of South Carolina and travels domestically and internationally for his current job in the business development and marketing field.

Donboch said although his classes are yet to formally begin, his experience with the program has been positive thus far. He said he believes the program will allow him to immediately go into his new career path and make strides toward ending PKD.

“I want to be able to go into nonprofit and be a person that makes a difference right off the bat,” Donboch said. “I think that the school allows me to do that.”

He said that the flexibility presented in the SPEA Connect program is one of the main things that drew him to continuing his education at IU.

“It’s been really good to be able to keep my job and still do it and get my degree in a timely fashion,” Donboch said.

Halstead said the Office of Online Education’s main goal is to guide the progress of online education within the IU system.

“This year, what you will see is continued focus on developing key programs on each of our campuses and having those ready for delivery,” Halstead said.

She said the focus is currently on expanding key programming at each of the campuses, but that the office has no control over which programs receive that focus. Each of the eight IU campuses is responsible for prioritizing programs.

“We support online education,” Halstead said. “We don’t mandate it.”

Follow reporter Holly Hays on Twitter @hv_hays.

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