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Public Universities Locking in Online Divisions

On July 30 the University of Massachusetts announced the appointment of Dr. Ken Udas to the post of CEO of UMass Online.�� Dr. Udas has a wealth of experience in the field, having led the Penn State online education development for a number of years as well as serving in the position of Director of the SUNY Learning Network.�� Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this announcement as reported on the BusinessWire, is the scope of Dr. Udas' recent distance learning assignments.

His most recent post was CEO of the Penn State World Campus, created by the University in 1998 and today offering more than 65 distance learning programs, currently being provided to over 10,000 students in all 50 states and all seven continents.�� Penn State was an "early adopter" of distance learning among the major universities in the United States.�� They have drawn online programs from their wealth of academic disciplines and created an impressive virtual college.

What is also impressive about Penn State's effort is the fact that it generates $45 million in revenue annually.�� Continuing an impressive numbers game, the University reports that its ten thousand plus online students generate about 23,000 "course enrollments."�� Penn State World Campus clearly has the capacity to eventually match both the enrollment and the volume of education "delivered" as its parent campus.

Dr. Udas helped develop the�� State University of New York (SUNY)�� distance learning operation.�� Today, the SUNY Learning Network encompasses forty higher education facilities ranging from community colleges to research campuses.�� The impressive enrollment in the various Learning Network online programs surpasses 100,000 "student enrollments" (classes).�� At SUNY the student enrolls at the campus that is offering the online course(s) desired and takes the class from any location.�� The SUNY Learning Network has a lot of working parts, and so has established a Help Desk to assist students who are overwhelmed by the new technology.

The University of Massachusetts hopes to replicate public distance learning schools of this magnitude.�� UMass Online currently offers ninety programs with over 1,500 courses that result in certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees.�� In hiring an experienced professional to develop the program their intent is to grow their online services and the revenue that accompanies online programs.�� The large public universities are beginning to think big about distance learning as a method of expanding their student population,�� a partial solution to the two major problems in public higher education today: overcrowded campuses and reduced funding.

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