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Minnesota Dept. of Education Unveils Distance Learning Website

Officials from Michigan's Department of Education, state universities and other institutions joined together yesterday to announce the development of a state online learning resource, Minnesota Learning Commons. It is a well organized, comprehensive site organized around distance learning opportunities in the state and what they represent for students, educators, parents and advisors.

The web site is beautifully designed, presenting large amounts of information in such a fashion that it seems simple to access and rewarding to view. For the most part the site focuses on education and career development, but there are some pages that will direct the viewer to other state services pages. On its presentation page the viewer can click through a series of slides that provide information in such categories as career research, the Minnesota Virtual Library, Rural Health, Public Schools, Minnesota Online, a Teaching Center, the University of Minnesota Online, and so forth.

On the iSeek page the viewer can explore career options, job listings and a database of 250 schools in the state. The schools include all of Minnesota's public universities, community colleges and vocational schools, as well as private colleges, for-profit colleges and accredited online institutions.

A unique feature on this page allows for comparative searches among the schools in the database. You can select three schools for comparison and then select a degree option that will then provide a display of the relevant programs at each school. A search for online information technology degrees turned up six degree options at Capella University, five degrees at the University of Minnesota in Rochester, and thirteen at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College - Virtual. This last school is focused on certificate and associate's degrees for job training purposes. Among the options there are a program for Cisco certification training and three levels of study for Web Development.

It's a well designed site with several unique features that extend beyond the ability to compare schools. There is a section with special software for resume and "folio" development, and a section devoted to K-12 online learning in Minnesota. While there are other states that are working toward an organized presentation of distance learning options, at the moment the Minnesota site is the state of the art.

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