The Republican - UMassOnline program offering real face time

The Republican - UMassOnline program offering real face time

By Holly Angelo -

A $650,000 grant from Sloan Foundation will allow UMassOnline to offer blended programs, which bring together on-site classroom learning with online learning.

UMassOnline was launched five years ago and has 22,000 students enrolled in 69 online degree programs offered by the five UMass campuses in Amherst, Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth and Worcester.

"This (blended programs) is going to become a very hot trend across the country and the world," said David J. Gray, UMassOnline chief executive officer, yesterday. "The whole idea behind the notion of blended programs is it mixes the best aspects of face-to-face instruction with the best that e-learning (online) has to offer."

Each of the five UMass campuses will develop or expand two programs. Health care is the focus of the first wave of blended programs that will become available in the summer, with additional ones added in the fall.

At the Amherst campus, the University Without Walls program will add a bachelor of arts in individual concentrations in health and human services; UMass-Boston, bachelor of science for registered nurses; UMass-Lowell, health management and policy master's program; and UMass-Worcester Graduate School of Nursing, post-master's certificate for nurse educators program. The Dartmouth campus will add a humanities and social sciences degree completion program.

"We really wanted to address ourselves to a clear area where there's a work force need in the state," Gray said. "It's (nursing is) an area of acute worker shortage."

Cynthia A. Suopis, interim director of University Without Walls, said her program has been offering blended programs for the past 10 years. "It's just a great model," Suopis said. "It meets the needs of the students. This way they get both."

UMass-Lowell will implement the grant with UMassOnline with the help of the other campuses. The majority of the grant money will be spent on the development of new blended courses, while the rest will fund marketing and new services, such as the assessment of student portfolios and the use of online tools for student career counseling.

"UMassOnline up to this point has almost exclusively been focused on online learning at a distance," Gray said. "We see the next big wave in e-learning is going to come out of this blended model."

The Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., is a nonprofit philanthropy, based in New York City, that awards grants in the fields of education, science, civics and other social sectors. According to its Web site, the foundation's total assets have a market value of about $1.5 billion.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Date: 1/20/07