Oklahoma college and universities poised to expand online offerings, consultant says

by The Daily Oklahoman
Oklahoma's public colleges and universities are well placed to expand their online offerings, a higher education consultant said Wednesday.

Bruce Chaloux, executive director of online education consulting firm Sloan Consortium, said the state isn't far from being able to develop online courses that are patterned after a new model that has gained attention recently.

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have grown in popularity since Stanford University pioneered the concept last year. In that model, students sign up to take a free noncredit course, which may include discussion forums, quizzes and team projects.

Since then, a number of similar projects have emerged, including websites Coursera, Udacity and edX. Courses on those sites are taught by faculty members from a number of colleges and universities, including Ivy League institutions and other prestigious schools.

Chaloux spoke to the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education at a Wednesday meeting at Rose State College in Midwest City. Higher education officials here are in a good position to look at integrating that model into what colleges and universities are already doing, he said.

Oklahoma colleges and universities already have a variety of Web-based offerings, with some schools offering a few entire degree programs online. For example, Northwestern Oklahoma State University launched online bachelor's degree programs in business administration and accounting in 2011.

Western Oklahoma State College also has several online degree programs. The courses come in formats that last 16 weeks, eight weeks, four weeks or 10 days.

At the meeting, college President Phillip Birdine said the college began offering the courses as a way to help the university stay viable in an increasingly competitive higher education market.

Although the college makes extensive use of the Web-based model, Birdine said, it limits its offerings to courses that lend themselves well to online instruction.


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