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The vast state of North Dakota has fewer than a dozen public colleges, making access to a traditional college education a challenge for many students. Online degrees in North Dakota can help to educate the next generation of professionals for the state's fastest-growing industry: oil and gas, or in other fields.

Online Colleges in North Dakota

The boom in North Dakota's oil industry has drastically increased the demand for skilled workers, engineers, law enforcement, and employees in the services industry, but there are relatively few universities in this rural state. The state of North Dakota addressed this educational challenge early on, introducing the North Dakota Center for Distance Education (ndcde.org) to allow students to take high school and even middle-school classes online.

More brick-and-mortar universities and colleges have also added online degrees in North Dakota. While the influx of out-of-state professionals has helped meet employment demand, it has created a significant housing shortage in many areas, increasing the need for skilled workers in the trades, especially construction. Educational opportunities at online colleges in North Dakota can be part of the solution, as students have the opportunity to train for in-demand trades without having to live in areas where affordable housing might not be available.

Trends in North Dakota Online Schools

North Dakota has a long tradition of attracting out-of-state students to its physical campuses, as the state's 11 public colleges have a higher ratio of nonresident students than almost every other state, according to a July 2011 report by the Wall Street Journal (online.wsj.com). In terms of online education, the state ensures that as many resources as possible are available to its residents. The North Dakota state government (ndworkforceconnection.com) publishes an informative and extensive list of free online courses and programs, which includes links to the newest trend in online education: massive open online courses.

Bismarck State College and the North Dakota University System Online are members of of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's (WICHE) ICE exchange, an alliance of member institutions and systems with a set of policies, procedures, and support systems for sharing distance-delivered courses among two- and four-year institutions in the 15-state WICHE region. North Dakota had the foresight to become a member of WICHE early on, in 1984. The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies includes a number of technology-related initiatives, including a multi-institutional project aimed at online adult learners.

College Degrees in North Dakota

According to data from the non-profit Lumina Foundation (luminafoundation.com), 45 percent of North Dakota adults currently hold at least a two-year college degree. However, the state is expected to face a small shortage of college graduates as it tries to achieve a college graduation rate of 60 percent by 2025. This shortage may be difficult to overcome in a strong employment market, but online colleges in North Dakota can help make it easier for students to combine their career and their education by eliminating the need to travel.

Some of the professional jobs in the state's leading industry, the oil sector, require a college degree, including the positions of petroleum engineer and environmental engineer, according to May 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov). As well, the North Dakota Department of Commerce (business.nd.gov) prides itself on having gained a reputation for supporting emerging businesses, entrepreneurs and expansions. The state's growing industries are manufacturing, technology-based businesses, agricultural and energy industries. The technology sector typically has significant demand for college graduates with degrees in the fields of science and math.

Online College in North Dakota

The University of North Dakota (distance.und.edu) offers hundreds of courses and dozens of degrees and certificates entirely online, including both interactive online courses and independent study courses. Popular degrees fall into chemical engineering, nursing, petroleum engineering, public administration, space studies and many more. Certificates are also quite diverse and available in fields such as carpentry, environmental engineering, oil refinery operations, and many others.

Dickinson State University (dickinsonstate.edu), located in the center of the booming North Dakota oil fields, offers a variety of online classes and nine full degrees, including in agricultural sales, finance, service equine management, and technology through its DSU online program. All classes use the Moodle learning management system and follow the semester structure of the brick-and-mortar campus. Dakota College at Bottineau (dakotacollege.edu) is part of the North Dakota University System Online (NDUSO) network, which includes 11 campuses and gives students access to a wide selection of online classes.

Sources:
Bismarck State College Online Campus
Bismark Tribune, "N.D. housing shortage extends to highway workers", August 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics
CNN Money, "Land a job in a North Dakota boomtown", October, 2011
Dakota College, Programs and Classes
Dickinson State University, Online Degrees
Lumina Foundation
North Dakota Center for Distance Education
North Dakota University System
North Dakota Workforce Connection
Star Tribune, "N. Dakota population growth is tops in U.S.", December 2012
The University of North Dakota Online & Distance Education, Degrees
The Wall Street Journal, "Frigid North Dakota Is a Hot Draw for Out-of-State College Students", July 2011
The Wall Street Journal, "North Dakota Enjoys Oil Boom -- But Girds for Slowdown", December 2012
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

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