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Nearly 40 percent of the adults in Maine have at least a two-year degree or above, ranking it 24th in the nation as far as adults with some college attainment. With a jobs skills gap predicted in the future, however, online colleges in Maine could play a role in keeping the adult population in reach of degree attainment and the state in having an educated workforce.

Online Colleges in Maine

Interest in online learning continues to expand, with the newest advancements including massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and even free, open-source textbooks. These trends are transforming the face of online education today, and giving students better access to tools and academics in a way like never before. Online schools in Maine are part and parcel of this growth, providing distance learning options not only at the college level, but also to students in high school.

To support online eduation, the Maine legislature approved an act to create the Maine Online Learning Program (www.maine.gov) in 2009. The program aims to create educational opportunities for students who might not otherwise receive them without distance learning. At the K-12 level, students may find ways to seek extracurricular interests, pursue Advanced Placement classes or even catch up on school work. To ensure quality instruction, course curriculum is required to comply with state standards, and assessments must be given to track academic progress.

Trends in Maine Online Schools

State leaders are also interested in discovering how online education can provide an advantage to students. Recently, Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen met with national education experts in South Portland, Maine, to discuss technology in education, according to The Maine Wire (themainewire.com). The all-day conference, called "Developing Student Success Through Online Learning: Inform, Inspire, and Connect," examined how schools can implement mobile devices such as iPads and laptops in learning, and how technology can help increase customized learning options. Bowen, a former teacher, has also supported charter school legislation, and was formerly the Director of the Center for Education Excellence at the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Students interested in expanding their education may look to online schools in Maine, but also turn to Tech Maine (mesda.com). This e-learning portal gives students access to a variety of e-learning titles, often through online learning material or videos that facilitate learning. These packages, available at a cost, exist in content areas such as business skills, certifications, desktop computing, programming and others. The site's online reference libraries also give students access to more than 2,000 titles in areas including business and technology, and can help increase job-preparedness skills and, perhaps, a career transition.

College Degrees in Maine

How can online colleges in Maine help in producing an educated workforce? The Lumina Foundation (luminafoundation.org) reports that as of 2010, 38.8 percent of the adult population in Maine had at least a two-year degree or above; this percent slightly surpassed the nationwide average. However, by the year 2025, a skills gap of 13.2 percent is projected in the state, indicating that Maine may fall short of the number of workers required to have some level of college education. Online degrees in Maine can help provide solutions to students seeking degrees, offering distance learning and online technologies to make education more accessible.

CareerOneStop (careerinfonet.org), a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, indicates that a number of occupations requiring a two-year degree should continue to grow between 2008 and 2018. These occupations include medical equipment repairers, and veterinary technologists and technicians, among others. Students pursuing a four-year degree may find more options to enter a growing field. According to CareerOneStop, cost estimators, financial examiners, logisticians and public relations specialists are expected to be among the fastest-growing occupations in the state. An online school in Maine may provide options to pursue training for these or other fields. Why else might students want to pursue postsecondary education? The Lumina Foundation predicts that by the year 2025, 95,614 additional degrees will be needed in the Maine workplace to help meet expected job needs.

Online Colleges in Maine

The University of Maine (umaineonline.umaine.edu) offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as graduate certificates through its UMaine Online site. The school is also planning to expand its online selections to include a Master of Science in Bioinformatics and a Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology. A number of specialized programs are also available through the University of Maine's online site, such as Academ-e, a distance-learning program providing college credit to high school seniors in Maine. The Bachelor of University Studies allows students to convert their own part-time online learning courses into a degree program, and Maine Studies offers a series of multi-disciplinary courses focused on the study of Maine.

The University of Maine at Augusta (uma.edu) also offers a variety of online programs through associate and bachelor's degrees. These online options are available in content areas such as business administration, computer information systems, information and library services, and others. Some of these distance learning programs are also available to out-of-state students in the New England area at reduced rates, according to the school website. Kennebec Valley Community College (kvcc.me.edu) also offers online learning programs ranging from business administration to computer information systems, radiologic technology, and many others. However, some of the school's courses may require an in-person session or practicum.

Sources:
CareerOneStop, Fastest Growing Occupations
Kennebec Valley Community College Online Programs
The Lumina Foundation
Maine Online Learning Program
The Maine Wire, Experts to discuss online learning for Maine
UMaine Online
University of Maine at Augusta
Tech Maine

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