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Online education is growing by leaps and bounds across the country, and Iowa is no exception. It's not surprising that students are flocking to one of the many Iowa online programs, which allow them to earn degrees from the comfort of their homes. Have a look at what's new and exciting in Iowa online college education.

Online Schools in Iowa | Online College Trends in IA

In the last decade, education has been revolutionized and made more accessible and affordable by one of the most significant inventions of the 20th century: the Internet. Students' college education is no longer limited by their physical location, whether they live in rural Iowa or a city of major industry like Des Moines.

In the heart of the nation, Iowa is on the cutting edge of new quality assurance programs for its online programs and educational opportunities for young people. This starts at the high school level with Iowa Learning Online (iowalearningonline.org), a program that helps Iowa school districts offer more learning opportunities through distance education, including interactive video classrooms. With the help of this program, incoming college freshmen should be familiar with the format, requirements and learning management software (LMS) of online learning, knowledge that can serve them well while pursuing a degree at many of the online colleges in Iowa.

Fueled by student desire for more flexibility, enrollment in online college classes has increased dramatically throughout the years. According to a 2012 study by the Sloan Consortium (sloanconsortium.org), 6.7 million students were enrolled in at least one online course as of fall 2011, an increase of some 570,000 students from the year prior.

Trends in Iowa Online Schools

Online degrees in Iowa have been part of the state's educational landscape since the previous millennium. In 1999, seven Iowa community colleges (including Eastern Iowa Community College and Iowa Lakes Community Colleges) formed a partnership called the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (iowacconline.org). Students apply for admission through one of the partner universities and can select classes from all partner schools.

According to a December 2012 article in the Toledo Chronicle (tamatoledonews.com), the Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) online learning program has experienced significant growth since it launched its first online class in 1998. As of 2012, students can earn a full Associate in Arts as well as a paralegal degree completely online. Iowa Valley utilized a federal iCreate grant from 2006-2011 to put the necessary technical infrastructure, software, and training in place.

Current online classes are offered via the LMS system known as ANGEL. Iowa Valley uses Quality Matters (QM), a nationally recognized, faculty-centered peer review process designed to certify the design of online courses. QM certification requires that different learning styles be met through online class design. IVCCD currently has three classes that are QM certified: Nutrition, Human Body: Health and Disease, and Technical Writing. All online classes since 2011 are designed to meet these QM standards.

Online College Degrees in Iowa

According to the non-profit group Lumina Foundation (luminafoundation.org), Iowa is striving for a 60 percent college graduation rate by 2025. As of 2010, the rate was 39 percent, creating a significant gap between those attending college and those graduating. Online colleges in Iowa can help fill this gap, especially in rural areas such as Lucas County, where just 12.3 percent of adults had a bachelor's degree compared with 24.9 percent statewide (U.S. Census Bureau).

In October 2012, the Iowa Workforce Development (iwin.wed.state.ia.us) published a report titled "Iowa's Hot 50 Jobs." Many of these jobs require either an undergraduate or a graduate degree. The list includes actuaries, computer and information systems managers, marketing managers, and pharmacists. Iowa colleges are consistently adding new online programs and classes to ensure that the Iowa workforce is prepared to meet the educational demands of the job market.

Online Colleges in Iowa

In 2011, the University of Iowa (uiowa.edu) announced the addition of an online bachelor's degree in business management with a concentration in entrepreneurial management to its online programs. However, the school already offers a selection of other online degrees. These include classes available through the school's Continuing Education program that are either instructor-guided or self-paced. One of the department's newest classes for 2013 is Conversational Russian. Similarly, Iowa State University (iastate.edu) offers online classes in a field that is not frequently taught at online schools in Iowa and elsewhere: engineering. Courses include Nonlinear Systems, Optimal Control, Mechanics of Materials and Principles of Nondestructive Testing.

Upper Iowa University (uiu.edu) has several online graduate degrees available including a Masters of Business Administration and a Masters of Public Administration. A free demo course will allow students to determine if online learning is a good fit for them. The University of Northern Iowa (uni.edu) which offers degrees and certificates via distance learning, uses the dobe Connect videoconferencing platform to connect students with their instructor and with each other. A team of support specialists is available to assist students with technical problems. Private universities such as Capella University also offers thousands of classes, programs and degrees to college students in Iowa and around the world.

Sources:
Iowa Community College Online Consortium
Iowa Workforce Development
Lucas County, Iowa State and County QuickFacts
Lumina Foundation
The Sloan Consortium, "Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States"
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald
Upper Iowa University, Center for Distance Education
University of Iowa, News Releases
University of Northern Iowa, Continuing Education

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