Online Colleges in Minnesota
2013 - 2014's Revolutionary Online Programs in Minnesota
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota is now one of 85 universities partnering with the popular massive open online course (MOOC) platform Coursera. Just months after the state's Office of Higher Education rejected the platform and subsequently reversed its decision, the University of Minnesota is now offering six different courses through Coursera. The first of these that the school is making available is its "Introduction to Recommender Systems" course. The MOOC will be available for free to interested parties across the world beginning in September. The introductory course will give students insight into the functionality of recommender systems, which are software programs that utilize extensive personalization to recommend information or products to users. Furthermore, the course offers two different tracks for learners based on their level of experience.
For those students with significant programming and mathematics experience, the "Programming Track" will teach the skills needed to create basic recommenders from scratch. Students with less programming experience can follow the "Concepts Track." This track will introduce students to the concepts and techniques of recommender systems but will not teach them programming basics. The Concepts Track is geared toward tech-savvy business leaders and engineering managers who oversee but do not work on programming themselves.
The University of Minnesota's Digital Campus has been offering online courses since 1996. The school's Twin Cities campus currently offers more than 900 online courses. While the new MOOCs the school is offering through Coursera are free, students do not receive college credit for them. However, the U of M does offer 34 fully online degree programs and certificates that can be achieved at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The schoo'ls latest statistics show that more than 31,000 students have enrolled in online courses through the university.
St. Mary's University of Minnesota
St. Mary's University of Minnesota is now offering its Master of Arts in Special Education degree entirely online. The material will be delivered both through the internet and by the St. Mary's custom coursework application for the iPad. The special app provides online students with the means to do research, complete their coursework, and keep in contact with their professors and fellow classmates. Each student enrolled in the online degree program will be provided with an iPad for their use throughout their studies at no additional cost. Graduates of the online program will not only return to their own classrooms with a better understanding of how to teach students with learning disabilities, autism, and other learning barriers, but should also be able to use their new insights to connect with students of all types and levels.
The small Catholic university is also offering several other online graduate degree programs at this time. These programs include their Master of Science in Project Management, Master of Arts in Human Resource Management, and their Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership degrees. The online programs are targeted at meeting the needs of working adults by offering career-oriented programs in a flexible and convenient format.
Employment Opportunities in Minnesota
Minnesota ranks high on the postsecondary education front -- the state is fifth in the nation in terms of college attainment as of 2010, according to a report from the Lumina Foundation. Nearly 46 percent of the state's working-age adults hold at least a two-year degree, a number markedly higher than the national average of 38 percent. However, about 24 percent of Minnesota residents in the same age range have attended some college but never graduated.
The Lumina Foundation expects that 70 percent of jobs in Minnesota will require a college credential by 2018. To meet this projected demand, students who have not yet completed their college education, as well as those who yet to begin, could take advantage of online learning. Opportunities for online studies are now available at a wide range of schools in state, including the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University at Mankato.
Minnesota scored an "A" for innovation in online learning from the 2012 "Leaders & Laggards" report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to its efforts in promoting online options at postsecondary schools. Online education could expand even further in the state thanks to legislative initiatives. As of early 2013, out-of-state and private colleges must register and pay a fee to offer online courses to Minnesota residents. Lawmakers have proposed eliminating this requirement for free, non-credit courses, which could open the door for massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the state, Minnesota Public Radio reports.
Advantages of Online Education for Students in Minnesota
Online learning has been seen as a boon for working professionals and busy parents for some time. Those employed full time can turn to online courses to work toward a higher degree without sacrificing career or family obligations. Parents may also find the flexibility of online courses advantageous as they can access their virtual lectures and assignments at manageable times.
As Web-based learning has become more mainstream, other non-traditional students are also realizing the potential of online courses. Those with mobility issues or learning challenges can use online learning as a viable alternative to classroom instruction. Meanwhile, individuals who live a great distance from a college campus can connect with their peers and teachers without needing to drive hundreds of miles.
Those who choose to enroll in an online school in Minnesota may gain the added benefit of becoming familiar with emerging online technologies. These programs require a working knowledge of various Internet platforms and communications tools such as chat rooms, message boards and similar applications. These skills may stand out for employers who recognize the value of technological prowess among job applicants.
Trends in Online Education: Public and Private Online Schools in Minnesota
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education counts nearly 200 public and private institutions statewide, and many of these now offer online courses or full online degrees. The University of Minnesota launched its first online course in 1996, and today, the university's Digital Campus hosts over 30 fully-online programs (as of February 2013) from certificate to graduate level in fields such as nursing, education, engineering, and information technology.
Minnesota State University at Mankato provides bachelor's completion and master's degrees online as well as certificate and education licensure programs. Hennepin Technical College offers blended learning options (part online, part on-campus) in fields such as business, child development and practical nursing.
Many national online colleges also offer degree programs to students in Minnesota. Some even have physical locations in the state, which may offer hands-on training or blended learning opportunities. DeVry University, ITT Technical Institute and University of Phoenix are among the national colleges that have campuses in Minnesota.
For students who want a broad overview of online options in the state, Minnesota Online is a comprehensive directory of online programs from schools within the Minnesota State College and Universities system. The site offers course listings, financial aid advice, demo courses and much more.
Entry Requirements and Application Process for Minnesota Online Colleges
Students who want to attend online college in Minnesota can start their search by browsing the schools listed below. For further information about the application process, including entry requirements and transfer-credit options, it's a good idea to contact the school and speak with an admissions counselor.
Leaders & Laggards
"Law regulating free online classes should go, legislator says," minnesota.publicradio.org, Feb. 19, 2013, Alex Friedrich
Minnesota Office of Higher Education
University of Minnesota Digital Campus
Minnesota State University - Mankato
ISEEK, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Labor Market Information Office
Hennepin Technical College