Online degree in development

Story by Briana Gruenewald

A planning committee is currently in the beginning stages of developing the first online-only degree to be offered by UW-Eau Claire called the Bachelor of Professional Studies Degree.

The BPS committee began last summer after UW Extension approached the university, offering to provide seed money for implementing a degree completion program that is strictly online. Kate Lang, chair of the committee, said the university is largely behind as an institution in creating such programs.

Lang also said the main motivation in creating the BPS degree program is serving the large population of adult learners who have already earned an associate’s degree at a UW college. Many of these students already have jobs where the only thing holding them back from getting a promotion is a bachelor’s degree, Lang said. After looking into national and local data about what the targeted market needs, the committee heard feedback from the public.

“It was pretty humbling because as we had ideas, Continuing Ed put them out there and people told us we were not receptive to the needs of adult learners,” she said.

However, one thing responders did say is that they wanted a degree from UW-Eau Claire because they believe in the quality of its education, Lang said. She continued to say that the program they are developing is one that she hopes adult learners will choose over Globe or Phoenix universities.

“What we’ve come up with is a degree that is kind of a new thing,” Lang said. “It incorporates some of the real skill-based stuff that adult learners need, with some real liberal arts and sciences knowledge that they also tell us they want and need.”

The degree is currently designed to be a single-track program with a major of Organizational Leadership and Communication. Composed of eight-week courses that can be completed in two years, the degree allows students to easily come in and out of the program.

The College of Arts and Sciences will house the degree, which will be comprised of required courses in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business. There will also be three core seminars that are strictly for BPS students.

“(The seminars) teach them research methodology and let

them do service learning or student-faculty collaborative research that are really the hallmarks of a UW-Eau Claire education,” Lang said.

Associate professor of geography Paul Kaldjan said he admires the work of his colleagues in planning for and pursuing this degree.

“I think it’s a great idea to explore how we can meet the needs of people in the community whose needs we can meet,” he said.

However, he says there are still unknowns that need to be addressed, which he said the committee made very clear. He said there are still concerns about the quality of an online-only education and the staffing for the courses, among others.

Much of the University Senate members agreed with Kaldjan at the Tuesday meeting, deciding to consult with their departments before voting on the entitlement to plan the degree. Voting for the entitlement will occur at the Nov. 9 University Senate meeting.