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Online colleges in Arkansas can help students seek the skills they need to train for in-demand jobs in the state. Leaders are hoping to decrease Arkansas' job-skills gap, improve the college graduation rate, and more fully use online education to meet the needs of busy adults in Arkansas and beyond.

Online Schools in Arkansas | Online College Trends in AR

Online and web-based learning is on the rise nationwide -- recent research from The Sloan Consortium (sloanconsortium.org) showed that 65 percent of school leaders believe that online learning is now an essential component of higher education. This may be the reason that in the fall of 2011 some 6.7 million students were enrolled in at least one online higher education course, according to the Sloan Consortium.

As online education becomes a mainstream aspect of higher education, schools in the state are joining colleges and universities throughout the U.S. in adopting online resources that can educate students both on- and off-campus. Arkansas' Department of Higher Education (adhe.edu) is making efforts to raise the educational level of its citizens and increase college graduation rates.

The U.S. Census Bureau (quickfacts.census.gov) indicates that just 19.6 percent of the state's adult population had a bachelor's degree or higher 2007-2011 compared to 28.2 percent of the adult population nationwide. The state's many institutions of higher learning provide Arkansas residents with valuable access to higher education. Already, the state offers 22 two-year colleges, 10 universities, a medical school, two law schools and 11 independent colleges and universities, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (arkansasedc.com). To help provide convenience to students, some of these Arkansas colleges currently offer online learning opportunities and online degrees in Arkansas.

Trends in Online Schools in Arkansas

To help support college attendance, Governor Mike Beebe and his Workforce Cabinet are encouraging students to pursue jobs projected to be growing fields in the near future: specifically in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). For this reason, in August 2011, the governor and his cabinet implemented the STEM Works program, which could lead to increased higher-education graduation rates as students are encouraged to pursue training and education that prepares them for STEM fields.

In a November 2011 piece in the Arkansas Times (arktimes.com), Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, addresses the need for greater innovation in higher education in the state. He says that online education provides the same sort of "disruptive" function in higher education as a new, but simple, affordable, and easily-accessible product does in business.

He notes the obvious advantage that online courses offer to students who cannot attend traditional campuses - convenience - but also indicates the benefits online education offers to professors as well: the capability to see who has read what material and how long they have looked at specific pieces. "In the future, I think our students are going to be fully online, fully taught using technology in the classroom or taught through a hybrid of the two, where technology is brought in to enhance the education experience," he says in the Arkansas Times.

College Degrees in Arkansas

The state's technical colleges -- many of them two-year institutions -- place a huge role in developing the state's workforce. To that end, they work with local businesses and industries to determine both existing and new workforce needs. In response to these employer needs, the Workforce Readiness Curriculum was developed by the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges (aatyc.org), a private, nonprofit higher education membership organization representing all 22 of the public two-year colleges in the state. AATYC aims to serve both the educational needs of two-year college students and the business and industry needs of the state.

Online colleges in Arkansas could help decrease the projected skills gap looking the state's future. According to Complete College America (completecollege.org), by 2020, 54 percent of jobs in Arkansas will require a career certificate or college degree, but currently just 26 percent of adults have an associate's degree or higher. This leaves 28 percentage of the adult population with a projected skills gap. These adults can look to online schools in Arkansas to train for in-demand positions.

According to Career One Stop, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, some of the fastest growing occupations in the state that require candidates to hold at least a two-year degree include those for paralegals and legal assistants, preschool teachers, and social science research assistants. Growing fields in Arkansas that require candidates to hold at least a four-year degree include those for medical and health service managers, financial analysts, and health educators.

Online College in Arkansas

The University of Arkansas' Global Campus Online & Distance Education (globalcampus.uark.ed) offers online programs and distance courses to in-state and out-of-state students in areas such as agricultural, food and life sciences; architecture; arts and sciences; education and health professions; engineering; and business, as well as a number of graduate programs. Students at Arkansas State University (astate.edu) can choose from more than 200 classes online in undergraduate and graduate programs.

The University of Arkansas (uark.edu) is taking a lead in the human resources field and offering a fully online Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Human Resource Development. The school also offers a web-based Master of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education.

Sources:
Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges
Arkansas Department of Education Listing of Higher-Ed Schools
Arkansas Times: "Rethink Higher Education"
CareerOneStop: Fastest-Growing Occupations Requiring a Two-Year Degree, Arkansas
Complete College: Arkansas
Lumina Foundation: Arkansas
The Sloan Consortium: "Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States"
STEM Works

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