Award-Winning Distance Education Division Celebrates 15th Year
By Christine Gillette
LOWELL, Mass. – Fifteen years ago, UMass Lowell was among the first institutions in the nation to offer students the option to take classes online, delivering eight courses to about 80 students. This year, the university saw more than 200 times that number of online enrollments in offerings from single courses to full degree programs.
UMass Lowell saw a record-breaking 18,558 online enrollments in this academic year, up more than 10 percent over the same period the previous year. The university’s distance education program has seen significant annual growth since that first semester in 1996.
“UMass Lowell introduced online learning so that busy people can get the education they need to achieve their professional and personal goals,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, the program’s founder. “The tremendous growth over the last 15 years shows how the convenience, quality and breadth of what the university offers add up to success for our students.”
Programs include fully online bachelor’s degrees in fields like liberal arts, psychology and information technology. Online graduate study options include 10 master’s degrees in areas like business administration and education, and a variety of certificates. Highly specialized programs created in response to demand from employers and students are another hallmark of UMass Lowell’s online offerings and include new certificates in fields like network security, victim studies and treating sleep disorders. Students enrolled in online programs receive academic advising and other services specially designed to meet their needs.
“We have concentrated on developing programs from full degrees to certificates so students have multiple pathways to the education they want,” said Catherine Kendrick, UMass Lowell’s executive director of distance market development and corporate outreach.
UMass Lowell has captured international awards for the quality of its online instruction and programs, such as the graduate certificate in behavioral intervention in autism.
The Sloan Consortium, or Sloan-C, an international organization promoting quality in online education, presented Moloney with a lifetime achievement award. Because of her years of experience with not only UMass Lowell but other institutions through Sloan-C, Moloney is an internationally recognized authority in distance education. Her efforts include working on the development of the “Sloan Semester,” which allowed college students displaced by Hurricane Katrina to continue their education online until they could return to campus.
UMass Lowell is a pioneer in combining online and classroom learning. In these “blended” courses, students complete much of their instruction online and meet with instructors and fellow students a handful of times over a semester to reinforce learning and encourage networking.
There’s still time to register for Fall 2011 online and blended courses. For class schedules, programs and more, visit http://continuinged.uml.edu/ .
UMass Lowell is a comprehensive, national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 15,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering, education, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, liberal arts, management, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.