The University of Washington is offering students who have already completed some college to enroll in their online school and obtain a bachelor's degree entirely online and for half the tuition price. Many public and private colleges have offered online degrees for years now, but UW is offering the program in their Early Childhood and Families studies program online for the first time.
Nicole Traore is one student who has taken advantage of the new online program. She is a family service worker at a state-funded preschool program. She has her associate's degree and many years of work experience in an early childhood education assistance program that serves low-income children and families. Part of her coursework includes videoing herself teaching her students then posting them for feedback from her instructors and peers.
"For me, it's about changing the way I see things," Traore said about earning a bachelor's degree at the age of 45. "I'm trying to be able to support families (in the ECEAP program) in a better way. And, it's personal because I always wanted to get my bachelor's degree."
To be considered for admission, students must have completed at least 70 college credits and meet some other requirements, including a 2.5 college grade point average. The program costs $160 per credit and is several thousand dollars less than the price of an on-campus degree. They also plan to expand their online offerings in fall 2014 to include a social science Degree.
Patricia Kramer, an associate professor of anthropology and head of the faculty council, says:
"We want to make this something that people in a nontraditional setting can get their arms around. We value this experience so much that we want to make sure we don't water it down."
The potential market is huge, and the field of online education is turning into big business for Washington's two major state universities. Free online classes like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are being questioned because they do not lead to a degree and cost the university money. However, traditional classes that lead to a bachelor's degree are becoming more and more popular.
Washington State University's online university is known as WSU Global Campus. It earned top marks for several of its online degree offerings, and enrollment has grown 20% in the past year. The school has offered bachelor's degree programs for the last 20 years and began offering master's degree and bachelor's degree online four years ago. Dave Cillay, Global Campus vice president, says the programs must be rigorously reviewed and approved by the faculty. They recently launched a bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degrees in criminal justice and in strategic communications. WSU's programs cost the same as their on-campus options.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that in 2012 more than 5 million students took at least one online class, and the number is expected to grow. One report estimates that more than half of all students will take at least one online class in the next five years.