UMassOnline Awarded National Grantto Study Statewide Access to its Programs

UMassOnline Awarded National Grantto Study Statewide Access to its Programs

SHREWSBURY, MA - April 27, 2006 - The Sloan Foundation, a national association that promotes online learning standards, has awarded UMassOnline a planning grant to help expand access to the University of Massachusetts. The planning grant will help UMassOnline to develop new models of e-learning to maximize the local and regional advantages of the five campuses.

UMassOnline, which has 21,000 enrollments and offers 60 degree and certificate programs completely online, has grown dramatically since it was launched five years ago. UMassOnline offers programs from the five campuses in the system - Amherst, Dartmouth, Boston, Lowell and the Medical School in Worcester.

"UMassOnline has established itself as a national leader in asynchronous online learning. Many of our students come from all over the world and have never come to campus" said David Gray, UMassOnline CEO. "Yet we know there are many prospective students and companies who are very interested in our online programs and consider access to campus research facilities and labs, for example, an added value. This grant will give us the opportunity to explore new and innovative approaches to elearning and enable us to extend these resources to more prospective students and business partners."

"There are so many new technologies and exciting ways of delivering education. We see this grant as an opportunity to identify programs and services that benefit from some mix of on campus and online delivery," said Jacquie Moloney, Dean of Continuing Studies, UMass Lowell, and principal investigator for the research grant. UMass Lowell is partnering with UMassOnline to implement the grant in cooperation with all five campuses. "Our faculty are well positioned to pioneer these new models as they have so much experience through the programs they have developed with UMassOnline."

The Sloan Foundation is hoping that UMass can help to set some new directions. "While we remain excited about the continued growth of asynchronous online education, we are seeking novel and interesting ways of reaching new populations who will benefit from programs that address local or regional needs" states A. Frank Mayadas, a Grants Director for the Sloan Foundation and President of the Sloan-Consortium, of which UMassOnline is an active member. "We've overcome so many boundaries and expanded access to millions of students by building online programs. We believe there is even more opportunity to expand access to millions more if colleges and universities take advantage of the local and regional affiliations and physical presence when developing and delivering elearning programs." The Sloan Foundation is hopeful that grants such as this will spur the development of new elearning strategies that enable institutions to reach out to new student audiences.

UMass will build off its experience with customized programs such as the online Master's in Education Certificate program developed with the Lawrence School systems and its Professional MBA program which allows students to take their courses completely online and/or face to face. With its five campuses scattered across the state UMass is an ideal setting to research whether blended learning alternatives will positively impact access to education.

UMassOnline could become the national model for localness initiatives, said Gray.

For more about UMassOnline, go to www.umassonline.net or call 508-856-1030.

Date: 04/27/06

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