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The South Dakota Board of Regents has reported that more students are graduating from South Dakota colleges, universities, and online colleges than ever before. In fact, the total number of students graduating with an associate or bachelor’s degree in South Dakota has increased by 21 percent since 2005. Many of these degrees are completed through the use of South Dakota online colleges and distance-education courses.

Higher Learning Initiatives

20,000-Plus Students Take a Distance Education Course

According to the Regents, distance-education courses are growing in popularity. In fact, more than 20,000 South Dakota students have enrolled in at least one distance education course in the public university system over the past year. Furthermore, unduplicated headcount in distance education courses has risen 13 percent in the past year, which indicates a five-year gain of nearly 71 percent. “Our report also shows that most distance-based undergraduate students are using distance courses to supplement their face-to-face coursework,” Jack Warner, the Regents’ executive director and CEO, said. “Our rapidly developing network of course and degree offerings has brought a public university education to many more South Dakota citizens, who in a pre-technology era might have been shut out of that opportunity due to geography or other circumstances.” He also noted that graduate students are also more likely to enroll in distance delivery courses as well.

Public Universities Bring Academic Offers to Wider Audience

One of the main goals of the Regents is to support academic programs that increase the delivery of online college courses. According to the Regents, this goal is “part of a strategic direction to enroll and graduate more citizens with college degrees and bring post secondary opportunities to more South Dakotans.” In 2010, the Regents supported the growth of online delivery courses by approving a bachelor of business administration in management degree at Dakota State University over the Internet; allowing the delivery of scheduled courses for associate and bachelor’s degrees in general studies offered by Northern State University; and approving the online delivery of South Dakota State University’s master’s degrees in curriculum and instruction and educational administration. The Regents also approved South Dakota State University to administer three new minors through online delivery, including sustainable energy systems, soil science, and advertising.

New Delivery Options Approved for Academic Programs

Similar to the two previous points, the Regents also worked to expand the reach of academic programs offered by universities, colleges, and online schools in South Dakota. In particular, in 2010, the Regents approved the following programs to be delivered via online college courses: the bachelor of science in elementary education from Dakota State University; master’s degrees in teaching and learning from Northern State University; the bachelor of science degree in sociology from South Dakota State University; and the bachelor of social work from The University of South Dakota. According to Jack R. Warner, the Regents’ executive director and CEO, “”The intent is to make these degree offerings more convenient and accessible for a greater number of students, many of whom work full time while taking care of their families… We will always look for ways to bring our public university programs to a wider audience, when there is sufficient interest and student numbers to make program delivery cost effective.” Through the coming years, the Regents plan to grow more online delivery courses at numerous universities, colleges, and online schools in South Dakota.

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