For over 100 years, the University has used new technologies to improve learning outcomes and provide better access to education. Most recently, online learning has been the principal method used to reach learners who would otherwise be restricted by time and distance.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, 1,538 online course sections were offered and 21,451 students enrolled, some in more than one. This led to a 6.7 % increase in total enrollments (41,333) over the previous academic year. The University offers over 40 online and blended degree and certificate programs ranging from public health and nursing to computer science and manufacturing management (see University of Minnesota Online for more information).
What are the key elements of online and blended learning?
As the Provost outlined in a February 2013 Regents committee presentation, online and blended learning is not a niche activity, but rather:
- Is integrated in the full lifecycle of students—undergraduate, graduate and professional, and continuing education.
- Serves students whether they are resident on one of our campuses or learning at a distance.
- Comprises a spectrum of approaches, from technology-enhanced classrooms and instruction to online courses and learning platforms.
How does online and blended learning fit into the University’s mission?
At the University of Minnesota, online and blended learning is critical to our goal of improving the quality and availability of educational programs. Our strategy includes:
- Improving the undergraduate teaching and learning experience by targeting selected programs and courses for enhancement or redesign.
- Supporting increased graduation and retention rates by giving undergraduates additional scheduling flexibility through redesign of high demand classes into an online format.
- Providing graduate and professional students with alternative access to select post-baccalaureate programs by offering them in an online or blended format.
- Improving access to University of Minnesota continuing education and noncredit offerings for professionals and lifelong learners.
- Exploring the potential of emergent technologies by offering a limited number of massively open online courses (MOOCs) to a national and international audience.
The University of Minnesota Online Steering Committee under the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs oversees the University of Minnesota Online website and student support center. The Center for Educational Innovation helps coordinate support for staff and faculty developing and teaching online courses and programs as part of the teachingsupport@UMN collaborative.