THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE UM SYSTEM WEBSITE.
New eLearning platform will make online programs more accessible; 22 new online programs are launching in 2021
The University of Missouri System today launched Missouri Online, a new unified resource and administrative structure that supports online certificate and degree programs at all four UM System universities. The launch represents the culmination of strategic priorities made by the UM Board of Curators and UM President Mun Choi over the last three years to expand its online education enterprise and upgrade learning technologies to help more Missourians and others achieve the dream of earning a college degree and to further their success in the workforce.
“Together with the Board of Curators, I set a goal three years ago for the UM System to become the premier eLearning provider in Missouri and beyond,” Choi said. “As an accredited, highly ranked four-campus university system that spans the geography of the state, we are best poised to provide programs for students that improve the economic and social vitality of the region.”
The new one-stop resource allows prospective students to view the online offerings of all four universities—University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), and University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL)—on a single website. The combined catalogs total more than 260 online degree and certificate programs, with 22 additional programs coming online in 2021.
“As the state’s public research universities, we knew it was our responsibility to provide more online opportunities that deliver upon the needs of Missourians to meet our critical mission in a way that makes us competitive and serves students who need options that fit their lives and their needs,” UM Curator Robin Wenneker said. “Thanks to the work and dedication of our university leaders, we’re breaking down barriers to make high-quality education more accessible to Missourians.”
In 2018, the UM System launched a systemwide eLearning initiative in partnership with the Board of Curators, UM System administration, and faculty and provosts from each university. The primary goals were to build a national model eLearning organization, meet the workforce goals of the state, and grow online student enrollment systemwide to 10,000 students.
A $20 million investment supported the construction of the systemwide infrastructure for online program support, better learning technologies and student support services. In addition, new guidelines were also established for faculty to teach online, as well as processes and guidelines for all online courses to go through standardized reviews for quality.
“This official launch of Missouri Online will build on our recent success in digital education and enrollment,” said Matthew Gunkel, chief online learning and technology officer. “Over the last five years, online program offerings have grown by 49%, with a 46% growth in online enrollment that’s totally separate from the shift to virtual learning due to the pandemic. Our programs offer the same excellence as traditional on-campus programs, with the added flexibility students need to be successful in their careers.”
The need for quality online program options for Missourians is critical to ensure a skilled and educated workforce. Among Missouri residents ages 25–64, fewer than half have an associate degree or higher. Additionally, more than 900,000 Missourians in the same age group have started college but haven’t finished, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Missouri Online will provide the type of resource working adults need to continue their education and move our economy forward,” Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan said. “Easier access to online programs will empower Missourians to complete the degrees they once started, or start a new career they previously thought was unachievable.”
The diverse subjects available provide students with flexible education options in nearly every sector of the jobs market. The collective inventory of online programs, which is the largest in the Midwest, means that students can find the program they need to advance from one of the four UM System institutions.
“Pursuing this degree will allow me to share skills and knowledge with my students that can be immediately applied in their careers, whether they pursue private practice, government, industry or academic veterinary medicine,” said Angela Tennison, associate dean for Student and Academic Affairs at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “The ability to get a high-quality degree online afforded me the flexibility I needed to continue both my education and my professional work.”
UM System institutions were recently recognized by U.S. News and World Report as having some of the best online programs in the nation. For master’s degrees, Missouri S&T’s online Master of Engineering programs ranked No. 18 out of 97 institutions and UMKC’s Master of Nursing programs ranked No. 23 out of 173 institutions. MU’s bachelor degree programs climbed 85 spots to No. 14 out of 337 institutions, and UMSL rose 10 spots to No. 42 in the same category. Mizzou’s online Master of Education programs ranked higher than any other institution in Missouri for the fourth consecutive year, climbing 45 spots since last year’s rankings to No. 15 in 2021.
MU and Missouri S&T were also recognized in a category called “Best for Veterans.” MU’s online graduate education programs ranked No. 5, and its online bachelor programs ranked No. 9 for veterans. Missouri S&T’s online engineering programs ranked No. 10 for veterans.