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North Carolina educators are taking steps to emphasize online learning. Whether that's through e-learning, distance learning or online degrees, students looking for online colleges in North Carolina can find the options to help prepare them for the future.

Online Colleges in North Carolina

The state of North Carolina is helping lead the drive toward distance learning, and is using its resources and programs to advance its objectives. The eLearning Commission (elearningnc.gov), a collaboration between the North Carolina Education Cabinet and the Office of the Governor, is dedicated to creating a collaborative online learning environment to promote lifelong learning.

The eLearning Commission established the North Carolina Virtual Public School (ncvps.org) because the state realized that, as stated on the NCVPS website, "students and teachers must be skilled in using technology to thrive in the technology-intensive 21st century." The Commission has also laid the groundwork for student access to online schools in North Carolina by focusing on the availability of internet service. In April 2012, the state took advantage of grants provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and installed 904 miles of fiber optic cable in rural North Carolina to help in this endeavor.

Trends in North Carolina Online Schools

According to the non-profit Sloan Consortium's 2012 Survey of Online Learning (sloanconsortium.org), 6.7 million students were enrolled in online classes during the fall 2011 term, which is an increase of 570,000 students over the previous year. According to the University of North Carolina, the state has more than 60,000 online students. In all, nearly a third of all U.S. students have taken an online course, according to the Sloan Consortium, and schools are continuing to plan for new changes.

The Sloan Consortium reported that it is the larger schools that are offering more massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which are becoming popular among students. However, more than 20 percent of these schools are in the planning stages for NOOCs in the future, suggesting how eLearning might one day continue to evolve.

The University of North Carolina (northcarolina.edu), a multi-campus university, makes it easy for students to find out which online classes may work from them. The university publishes a broad-reaching distance education inventory, which allows students to search by program type, level, campus and subject area. North Carolina State's Distance Education (distance.ncsu.edu) has partnered with several organizations to provide greater access to distance education and career opportunities, including the eLearning Commission and Pipeline NC, which connects job seekers with employers.

College Degrees in North Carolina

According to information from the North Carolina Department of Commerce (thrivenc.com), the Raleigh-Durham area is frequently referred to as the "new Silicon Valley," and is the nation's third-largest center for video game development. By 2025, North Carolina is estimated to face a 12 percent skills gap between its number of educated workers and number of jobs requiring employees with these advanced skills. Online degrees in North Carolina can be helpful in this endeavor, but also reach out to those students who want to achieve the college training and preparation that can be helpful for a career, but lack the ability to attend a traditional school.

These days, a college degree can be more valuable than ever, as college graduates earn an average of $1.1 million more over their lifetime than non-college graduates, according to the October 2012 report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau (census.gov) titled "Work-Life Earnings by Field of Degree and Occupation for People With a Bachelor's Degree: 2011." Many online schools in North Carolina now offer engineering and math degrees, including an undergraduate certificate in computer programming, which is available entirely online at North Carolina State University (ncsu.edu).

Online College in North Carolina

One of the oldest colleges in North America, the University of North Carolina (online.northcarolina.edu), is anything but antiquated when it comes to technology and online learning. Through the UNC Online Exchange, students can enroll in courses other than those offered at their home campus at no additional cost. The college system's 16 universities offer more than 300 online degrees, as well as many certificates. UNC Online Exchange offers a variety of delivery formats, such as videoconferencing, web-based asynchronous and web-based synchronous learning. Popular bachelor's degrees include RN to BSN Nursing, Fire Science, Hospitality Management, Occupational Safety and Health, Sociology and Teacher Education.

North Carolina State University (distance.ncsu.edu) offers several hundred undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a Master of Computer Science, Master of Forest Biomaterials, Master of Science in Instructional Technology, Master of Soil Science, and many others. Popular graduate certificates include E-Learning, Gerontology and Youth Development Leadership.

Sources:
eLearning North Carolina, "Underserved Rural North Carolina Gets High-Speed Internet Access"
North Carolina Department of Commerce, State of the North Carolina Workforce 2011-2020, 2011
North Carolina Virtual Public School, History
North Carolina State University, Undergraduate Certificate in Computer Programming
Sloan Consortium, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2012
United States Census Bureau, Work-Life Earnings by Field of Degree and Occupation for People With a Bachelor's Degree: 2011, 2012
University of North Carolina

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