October 1, 2014

A degree of open-ness: University of Texas offers online degree completion route

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Hamilton, R. (2011) UT System Launches Online Route to Degree Completion The Texas Tribune, December 13

I complained in my retrospective of e-learning for 2011 that some institutions that promote open content are not open to access for students wanting qualifications. Open-ness is not black or white but comes in varying shades. Often even within systems where students have been accepted and are paying full tuition, there are internal barriers to degree completion. I was therefore pleased to see that the University of Texas System is creating a new path to completion through online courses for students who attempted but — for whatever reason — have been unable to finish their college degree.

‘The Finish@UT program, which launched last week, is a selection of UT-System-approved online courses aimed primarily at students between ages 25 and 35 who have already amassed credits toward an undergraduate degree. “Particularly those students who have had various life issues intervene and cannot get to campus on a regular basis,” said Martha Ellis, associate vice chancellor for community college partnerships at the UT System.

Ellis said the primary benefits of the program for students are the flexible scheduling and degree personalization. “We want to know: How can we tailor a degree to get you a quality degree best utilizing the coursework that you’ve taken to date?” she said.’

This is a question that should be asked (and answered) within all post-secondary educational jurisdictions. For too long in North America we have had artificial and arbitrary barriers to degree completion that are the result of institutional autonomy and hubris. Well done Texas!

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