"What's exciting that we are involved in is moving toward online education," said Domenico Grasso, vice president for research and dean of the graduate college at UVM.
The university is working to get a number of online degree programs off the ground for the first time. But transitioning from a bricks-and-mortar education to one that's centered on the web can come with hurdles, like concerns about quality.
Students, faculty and alums protested at the University of Virginia last summer when trustees pushed for a faster move online than the measured approach its president wanted. UVM watched the debate closely and is aiming for the latter.
"We're working very closely with our faculty senate here and working with faculty members here to make sure that we do a similar, thoughtful approach to moving into online education, making sure that it is high quality education, something that is value-added and reaches an important population," Grasso said.
Online degree programs in business, IT and health care have been underway at Champlain College since the 1990s.
"We believe online really offers the working adult a chance to advance in their career, offers communities a chance to have access where education fits within their life, fits within what they're juggling and also allows them to really apply it to their workforce," said Jayson Boyers, the executive director of continuing and professional studies at Champlain College.
Boyers says about 800 people are enrolled online at anytime and that having the option is allowing his students to find success in an environment that suits them best.
"I think it common sense that this is part of the portfolio of higher education. I am always reluctant to say that one is better than the other," Boyers said.
UVM says it plans to start with programs in health and environmental leadership. It will have to spend money to get them going, but is confident the effort will turn a profit. It can't say when or how much they'll be charging new online learners.
"Now that you are dealing in a marketplace that is in the cyberworld, you are competing with other schools that are priced in a very different competitive market. Some schools offer degrees at the same rate of their residential program, others don't," Grasso said.
UVM hopes to get the new online effort up and running within the year.
UVM says an additional challenge to making the move online will be to train faculty in how to transition from the classroom to the web.