Distance Learning Center
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880
Distance Learning Center
News and Events Details
Hundreds of nontraditional students around the state of Wisconsin were provided a new opportunity to complete their college degrees when the Extended Degree Program - now, Distance Learning Center - was officially launched at UW-Superior in 1978.
Guiding the program's formation was the "Wisconsin Idea," first articulated by University of Wisconsin President, Charles Van Hise, in 1904, when he remarked that he would "never be content until the beneficent influence of the university reaches every family in the state."
Over a century later, Van Hise's vision continues to guide the Distance Learning Center and other UW-Superior outreach programs.
"When we started, we met so many people in rural areas around Wisconsin who had no other options," said Carolyn Petroske, an early proponent of the program and its longest-serving director (1983-2001). "They were captive - and we were flexible."
UW-Superior was one of four universities in the UW System to offer the Extended Degree Program. It was the only university to offer self-paced independent learning that led to a degree, providing that flexibility that was - and is - so appealing to distance learning students.
The individually designed major was quickly followed by the elementary education major. By 1981, 28 students had graduated from the two programs and enrollments had increased by 64 per cent - from 232 to 380 students. Two years later, another 156 students were enrolled.
In 1995, staff and faculty began experimenting with online course design. Four years later, the first Internet course was launched. Today, more than 100 instructors teach over 250 courses online. A third degree program, the first to be offered completely online - Communicating Arts, was offered in 2006.
From 2009-2013, three additional bachelor's degrees - Sustainable Management, Health and Wellness Management, and Exercise Science - and a master's in Sustainable Management were introduced.
Today, 551 students are enrolled at the Center in various levels of completion. In fall 2015, the Center plans to launch a legal studies bachelor's degree online, and is exploring the possibility of a master's degree in data science - another collaboration with UW-Extension.
"We plan to double the number of distance learning students in 10 years," said Dr. Peter Nordgren, associate dean for Distance Learning and Continuing Education. "I'm confident we will get there."
While Center programs continue to grow and expand, and new technologies and teaching methods are introduced, Nordgren notes that the student profile has not changed much in 35 years. More than 75% are women, and the largest age group is 25-49 years old. Nine out of ten have some college education. More than 85% are working; 60% are employed full-time.
Students' objectives for completing their degrees have also remained consistent: improving employment status or pursuing new opportunities. And, says Nordgren, most of their reasons for selecting the Distance Learning Center are similar: flexibility, feasibility, individualization, and credit for prior learning.
"We continue to provide our students with high quality advising services, in-demand majors, relevant courses, flexible schedules, timely support, and high standards for teaching and learning," said Nordgren.
"In 35 years that hasn't changed. That's why our students continue to reach their goals."
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