Florida's 13th University May Be Online Only

Dec 18, 2012

Florida's next public university could be Online U.

CONNECTED LEARNING: Online courses are the first to fill up, experts say.

Depending on how the Florida Board of Governors reconciles several issues with  expert recommendations, the Legislature may be asked next year to establish the 13th state university for Internet students only.

The indicators are good for welcome and acceptance by degree-seeking students, according to Gina Jordan's story for StateImpact Florida:

  • 40 percent of university and college students in Florida took at least one course online in 2010-11. That’s higher than the national average.
  • The cost of tuition is the same for courses taken online and in the classroom. However, the “distance learning fee” increases the total cost per credit hour for online courses.
  • Online courses often fill first.
  • Students are enrolling in online degree programs at all degree levels.

The Board of Governors, at its meeting in Davie on Tuesday, was expected to consider at least four strategies for increasing online education in the state university system. One of them would be to create a brand new online institution that would drive the development of new programs.

But the board could also start more modestly by setting up online programs at existing universities, choosing a "lead" university to be the online innovator, or getting several schools to collaborate on online programs that would then spread throughout the system.

Consultants from the Parthenon Group are doing the basic research for the Board of Governors as it searches for the best way to expand the state economy through higher education.

Parthenon's conclusion: "massively open online courses" could be launched for a fraction of the cost of traditional courses and at another fraction of the tuition that students in tradition courses have to pay.