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UTPA expands its reach with new online accelerated degree programs set for this fall
Posted: 05/30/2012
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UPDATE (6-29-12): YOU CAN APPLY NOW!

UT Pan American, in collaboration with Academic Partnerships, this week launched its two new online accelerated degree programs beginning this fall for education and business professionals - the Master of Education in Educational Administration and the Master of Business Administration.

The fall session will begin Oct. 24 and has an application deadline of Oct. 3.

For more information about enrollment and funding opportunities, visit http://onlineap.utpa.edu or call the Office of Graduate Studies at (956)665-3661.

The University of Texas-Pan American has entered into a new partnership that will expand access to its programs beyond its campus to students at the far edges of the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.

UTPA recently partnered with Academic Partnerships, LLC to implement two accelerated online graduate programs this fall at the University. Pictured at a workshop held at the University to plan for the development and kickoff of the programs are left to right Cynthia Brown, UTPA vice provost for Graduate Studies; Javier Reyna (BBA-CIS '91), director of Partner Integration Services, Academic Partnerships; Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; Dr. Martha Cantu (BA '85, M.Ed. '90, Ed.D. '02), UTPA vice president for Student Affairs; and Greg Harp, managing director, Academic Partnerships.
In a joint venture with Academic Partnerships, LLC (AP), a Dallas-based higher education service provider, UTPA will this fall begin offering accelerated online based courses in two of its accredited graduate programs - the master of business administration and the master of education in educational administration. In Spring 2013 an accelerated online program will also be available to earn a master of public administration degree.

AP, which contracts with public institutions only, helps convert traditional degree programs offered on campus for online delivery and works to recruit, qualify and retain the programs' students.

"This is an important day in the evolution of the University," said UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen addressing AP personnel and UTPA deans, department chairs, and faculty and staff members who gathered for a multi-day planning session in April at the University. "We need to do everything we can to help people get an education in the Valley. We are about transforming the Valley, the state and this nation one student at a time. I believe this partnership will make a difference."

Greg Harp, AP's managing director, said the company's mission is to recruit, retain and graduate quality students. It also offers the operating platform needed and the enrollment management necessary for accelerated programs to function efficiently. He said UTPA is its 20th partnering institution and described the company's approach.

"We look at it from the student perspective. We want to optimize the student experience," Harp said.

Dr. Cynthia Brown, vice provost for Graduate Studies at UTPA who will oversee the project, said that these are the first ever accelerated online programs offered at UTPA and will primarily target adult learners who are working.

"UTPA is being innovative and entrepreneurial in trying to provide better access to students in the region to the great programs we have here at Pan Am," she said.

Each program's courses will be offered in seven week terms, with six terms planned to be offered within one calendar year. Each of the fall programs offered will require the successful completion of 12 courses, including a capstone course that will be offered each term after the completion of the program's first 12-course cycle. The programs will be set up in what AP calls a "carousel model" in which a student can enter the program at whatever course is being offered each term.

"It has to be a curriculum structured with that flexibility to enter at any point - if you look at other types of programs where they have more sequential courses, you don't get as much economies of scale as you do here," Brown said. "The carousel model lends itself very well to the working person who has job commitments at different times of the year. You can get out at any point and come back in when you can. You are not losing months and you are not losing momentum."

The courses, which will primarily be marketed to South Texas students, have the potential, however, to gain large enrollments from prospective students worldwide. An online RN to BSN nursing program implemented by AP and The University of Texas at Arlington three years ago grew from 300 to 3,000 students within its first year.

"The first group of students you bring in - the first cohort, which could be 10 to 20 students - they will be in Class A, the next course offered will have a new cohort entering as well as those from Class A, so the classes grow over time," Brown said. "A different type of learner will be successful in the accelerated program. You are going to have to learn a whole semester's course work in seven weeks. You will have to be very motivated, very focused."

The courses curriculum will be provided and taught by UTPA faculty. However, in a separate contract with an AP spinoff company - Instructional Connections - academic coaches will be hired to help faculty with routine tasks and assist students with questions. One coach, who'll perform much like a teaching assistant, will be hired for every 20-25 students in a class.

"As a result from their outreach on retention with students, they have 93 percent retention from one term to the next . Their overall graduation rate is also over 90 percent. Their focus isn't getting people in the door, it's getting them out the door. Their revenue is generated by having students enrolled in the classes. The effort to keep them enrolling in a program's courses makes good business sense," Brown said of AP's success.

Brown said as enrollment increases, new revenue will be generated for the University. University administrators also predict this way of offering courses will have a transformative effect on the University.

"This type of online delivery will require faculty to look at our courses in a different way and as instructors become involved in this online learning they are developing new techniques that will then be transitioned to their on campus programs," she said.

The first courses will begin Oct. 24. The degree programs offered, which will be required to meet the national standard for online learning called Quality Matters, will have the same admissions criteria and exit requirements as the same degree programs offered on campus. Admission and program requirements are available at the Graduate School website.