News Release

OSU 'Ecampus' continues rapid growth, thanks to new programs

January 29, 2010

Oregon State University's Extended Campus online enrollment increased 20 percent between 2008 and 2009, thanks in large part to new degree programs that helped to continue its rapidly expanding growth of the past several years.

In fall 2009, 4,282 students enrolled in "Ecampus" courses, an increase of 707 students over fall 2008. Just five years ago, Ecampus courses enrolled fewer than 1,800 students. Its increase this school years is its largest since 2005, when it added 727 students.

According to the newly released, seventh-annual Sloan Survey of Online Learning, 4.6 million students - or, one in four college students -- were enrolled in at least one online course in 2008-09, an increase of 17 percent from the previous year. Most of the growth is coming from traditional schools like Oregon State University that are growing their online offerings, the study's authors say.

"We work very closely with departments and colleges at OSU to develop high-quality courses and programs that meet the needs of adult learners," said Ecampus Executive Director Lisa Templeton. "Because of the scope and quality of our online programs we are not only attracting students throughout the state of Oregon, but we have students enrolled from all across the United States, as well as various foreign countries."

Ecampus currently offers seven undergraduate degrees, 14 minors and eight graduate degrees and programs online and from a distance. Among those programs are three new undergraduate degrees in fisheries and wildlife, political science and women studies and a graduate certificate in geographic information science.

The new programs, which launched last September, are exceeding originally expected enrollment numbers. The fisheries and wildlife online degree program, the only program of its kind, began the winter term earlier this month with more than 100 students, double its enrollment in the fall term.

"We knew the program would be popular, but our initial enrollments have greatly exceeded our expectations," said Dan Edge, head of the OSU Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife. "We have offered on-line classes for more than 15 years and have developed a national reputation in offering challenging and interesting classes."

Other recently added programs have also seen an immediate boost in enrollment.

  • The geographic information science graduate certificate, which is gaining traction after its first term, prepares students for employment opportunities in the growing field of GIS science, has 12 students and is getting more inquiries every week.
  • The political science online degree has more than 50 students in just its second quarter of operation. It's one of only a couple nationally, and enrolls a broad base of students from natural resource managers in rural locations to U.S. military students in Iraq and Afghanistan, rural students in eastern Oregon and the Midwest and international students interested in a U.S. university degree.

The Sloan Survey says that some online enrollment growth may also be attributed to environmental factors of the past two years, such as the H1N1 flu outbreak and the economic downturn. Dave King, associate provost of Ecampus, says the university's goal is to continue to grow Ecampus, even as those external factors fade away.

Ecampus plans to continue to expand its offerings, with several new programs expected to launch in 2010.

"Our expectations are that enrollment will continue to grow in the 2009-10 academic year," Templeton said. "We are developing some exciting new online degree programs and courses." 

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