‘Digital campus’ centralizes online classes

A new campus has been added to the University of Minnesota system, but itâÄôs not in any physical location âÄî itâÄôs found on the Internet. The University Digital Campus, unveiled at the end of November, was created to centralize all of the UniversityâÄôs online offerings, ranging from degree completion to fully-online bachelorâÄôs degrees. The program will partner with all the University campuses to create a hub for students interested in online or distance learning. A nationwide survey released last month found that online enrollment serves nearly 22 percent of total U.S. college enrollment âÄî higher than itâÄôs ever been. On the same day as the Digital Campus unveiling, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees Chairman David Olson announced initiatives to promote online learning across Minnesota. Pawlenty and MnSCU agreed to have 25 percent of all credits earned to be earned online by 2015. âÄúIt’s a stretch goal, but we think we can get there,âÄù Olson said. âÄúOne of the reasons we’re trying to do that is because the students have told us they’d like to have more online courses, and we’re going to try to deliver.âÄù Digital Campus Initiative Lead Bob Rubinyi said the Digital Campus, a long-term process, has been in the making for about a year. They hope to work with the UniversityâÄôs different colleges to encourage additional online degree programs, and make the online course catalog easier to use and more comprehensive. There are currently three bachelorâÄôs programs at the University that are entirely online: applied health, manufacturing management and business. Seven other masterâÄôs and doctorate degrees are also available. College of Continuing Education Director of Individualized Degree Programs Josh Borowicz said individualized degrees are still âÄúnot available in a big way,âÄù but University students will be able to benefit from the Digital Campus. The Digital Campus also offers degree completion. Students who have been away from the University but wish to complete a degree now have the opportunity to do it through the Digital Campus. BachelorâÄôs degrees in applied studies and multidisciplinary studies were approved by the Regents board over the summer, according to Digital Campus Programs Lead Amanda Rondeau. Although Pawlenty didnâÄôt invite the University to the online initiative announcement, Rondeau said the governor âÄúsupports the workâÄù that the University is doing with the Digital Campus. âÄúThis is a first step in establishing some presence in the online degree world,âÄù Borowicz said. âÄúWe’re just starting.âÄù Rochester student Lois Kennis , whoâÄôs taken classroom-based courses before, is completing her degree online through the UniversityâÄôs Digital Campus. Although she said she thinks new students could benefit from a traditional classroom setting, her online version is going well. âÄúWe’ve been able to have good, effective discussions between members of the class,âÄù Kennis said, âÄúso I feel like I kind of know the other people in the class, even though they’re as far away as Texas.âÄù