More than 8,000 students are enrolled in the more than 700 online courses offered each semester through 11 campuses of the Montana University System. With the knowledge that not every student will explore the traditional brick-and-mortar college, the Montana University System works to improve the quality and availability of online schools in Montana.
Higher Learning Initiatives
The Montana University System’s Board of Regents created a policy that would make two-year college programs more affordable and accessible to Montana university students, since Montana was ranked near the bottom in students taking advantage of two-year degrees. In order to do this, the board worked with education leaders throughout the community to put together a plan that would allow potential students to find programs that fit their academic and financial needs. The College! Now initiative harnesses the power of online colleges in promoting two-year educational opportunities and encourages universities and students to actively pursue them. The program is projected to increase enrollment in associate degree programs at community colleges and online colleges in Montana, so students will have transfer opportunities for four-year degrees and high-quality educational opportunities at lower tuition.
Core Principles of Quality for Online Courses in the Montana University System
In order to help Montana universities abide by a set of principles and expectations, the Montana University System laid out a set of rules and requirements for all online colleges in Montana. The written principles explain the expected design and delivery of all online courses in Montana. As explained in the core principles, “the specific implementations of these principles will certainly vary as technology changes and teaching and learning methodologies evolve, but the principles themselves should persist.” The standards have been adopted using the Quality Matters Rubric Standards and other best practices identified within the industry. The core principles cover key aspects of online education, including learning objectives, assessments, course technology, learner support, and accessibility.
Distance Learning Initiative
In order to improve the quality of distance learning and Montana online colleges, the Montana University System created the Distance Learning initiative. In 2007, the Montana Legislature approved funds for increasing the availability of online education in the Montana University System. With the $900,000 that was granted, the system invested in faculty, resources, and infrastructure for online education programs. Because of this grant, Montana universities now offer more than 90 online degrees and 700 online courses.