21,000 students pursue degrees entirely online
North Carolina’s public universities have become major players in the world of online education.
In the last academic year, almost 4 in 10 public University students in North Carolina took at least one online class, and nine percent were enrolled entirely online. That’s nearly 21,000 students pursuing higher education entirely through online offerings at schools across the University system.
That growth is fueled in part by new policies that allow any student at a public campus to take online classes at any other school in the system.
“Students have options across the state,” said Matthew Rascoff, the University’s Vice President for Technology-Based Learning and Innovation. “It’s a real strength for the University system. 
Opening online classes to more students has helped the University operate more efficiently, provide greater flexibility for adult students and military veterans, and decrease the time it takes to earn degree credits.
“The students are moving online, taking advantage of these opportunities,” Rascoff said. It’s up to us to respond to this, to meet this demand and serve those needs.”
The University system took a big step toward meeting those needs last year, when it launched an updated and easily searchable directory of online courses available at every campus. UNC Online lists more than 300 fully online degree programs and nearly 2,000 individual courses.
These include high-demand programs in engineering, computer science and health care fields. Since the new online directory launched, search traffic has increased nearly 300 percent.
That fits the University’s overall strategy for helping 32 percent of North Carolinians earn a college degree, even if they don’t have the time or the ability to come to campus.
“Online courses are serving a population who are enrolling while balancing competing priorities in their lives, and for whom face-to-face courses do not provide enough flexibility,” concluded a recent report to the Board of Governors, which oversees the University system. That kind of flexibility is especially important to adult learners seeking to gain new skills for a changing economy, or residents in rural areas without easy access to a university campus.
“There is clearly pent up demand for online courses,” Rascoff told Board members last month. “We’re now much closer to meeting that demand.”
A sampling of fully online programs designed to help meet the needs of students and North Carolina’s economy:
- A master of science in aerospace engineering — a growing field for North Carolina — from NC State University. “Lectures are captured, digitized, and delivered to you completely online by streaming video, and are enhanced with various interactive Internet-based learning applications. Flexibility and convenience are key advantages of this program.”
- A master of science in nursing education from UNC Charlotte. “Graduates often seek positions in health systems as clinical educators or academic positions teaching nursing and meet the North Carolina Board of Nursing requirements for Nurse Educators.”
- A bachelor’s degree in emergency medical care from Western Carolina University. “Graduates have pursued careers as paramedics, educators, physicians, physician assistants, researchers, and Emergency Medical Services administrators.”
- A bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism administration from North Carolina Central University. “The job placement rate of graduates varies from 97%-100% each academic year. Graduates of the program are employed in lodging, food and beverage service, convention and visitors bureaus, event management, resorts, conference centers, cruise lines, and airlines.”
- A master of arts in technology and communication from UNC Chapel Hill. “The MATC provides students with the knowledge and skills to solve communication problems using the new media tools that are transforming business practices.”
- A bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science from Winston-Salem State University. “When you graduate from the program, you will be equipped for a career as a practitioner in the changing environment of the clinical laboratory.”
- A master of science in construction management from East Carolina University. “The curriculum will teach you analytical skills, computer applications, human resources management, scheduling, land use management and development, cost estimating and analysis, and quality control.”
- A bachelor’s degree in environmental health and safety from NC A&T State University. “You will develop both technical and safety management skills for industrial applications and entrepreneurship, and will learn to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control workplace stress and accidents.”
http://programs.northcarolina.edu/ and https://online.northcarolina.edu/unconline/courses.php (1,460 baccalaureate and 480 graduate courses)