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In order to prepare Oklahomans for the changing job market, many schools in the state are offering online education as a way to help residents obtain a postsecondary education. To promote this, online schools in Oklahoma offer choices that range from select classes to full degree programs available via distance learning.

Online Colleges in Oklahoma

During the Online Leadership Summit -- which was held in Oklahoma City in 2010 to inform school superintendents from around the country about innovations in online education -- the keynote speaker said that online education is rapidly moving from "the fringe of education to the heart of it," according to NewsOK. And every year in Oklahoma, that heart beats stronger and stronger.

In 2010, the legislature passed Senate Bill 2319 in order to give all Oklahoma students access to supplemental online courses when requested. Under this law, students are able to study subjects that they may not ordinarily have access to at their schools, such as advanced placement courses. This choice can be particularly beneficial to students living in rural areas that are home to small school districts.

In order to ensure that students are getting access to the online courses they request, the state is implementing quality control measures that hold school districts accountable when a student is denied access to a requested class, according to NewsOK (newsok.com). In addition, in 2012, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved additional funding to advance online higher education. This appropriation will allocate $2.5 million for colleges and universities to increase their online courses and degree programs.

Trends in Oklahoma Online Schools

In response to the passage of Senate Bill 2319, the Oklahoma State Department of Education passed a rule to make online education mandatory, rather than supplemental. This proposal was subsequently rescinded after much statewide criticism, but that doesn't mean that online education in Oklahoma is not growing exponentially without the requirement. In fact, studies show that the use of online education in Oklahoma has increased about 400 percent in recent years, according to Tulsa World (tulsaworld.com). Approximately 4,500 public school students took online classes in the 2010-2011 school year, up from 2,500 in 2009-2010 and 1,100 in 2008-2009 (www.newsok.com).

The Oklahoma Connections Academy is an online school that allows students around the state to earn their high school diploma. Just as they would at a traditional school, students are required to take core courses and tests based on the state's curriculum, and can take a number of elective courses -- such as music, sign language, Spanish, and physical education. In addition, students at the Oklahoma Connections Academy can participate in extracurricular activities and field trips, which allow them to connect with their peers face to face.

Similarly, the Oklahoma City School District is opening an online school, called the Innovations K-12 Virtual Institute, which will not only emphasize virtual learning, but real-world mentoring for students as well. By building a strong face-to-face foundation, students can leverage the benefits of online education without losing the support they would receive at a brick-and-mortar school.

Online College Degrees in Oklahoma

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (oesc.state.ok.us), only 20.3 percent of Oklahomans 25 years old and up have earned a bachelor's degree or above, while the national average is 24.4 percent. This may be bad news in light of the state's changing job market: There are several emerging occupations in Oklahoma that require job applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree. According to the Economic Research and Analysis Division of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the state can expect to see a substantial need for computer software application engineers, geoscientists, health and safety engineers, and market researchers in the coming years. Online degrees in Oklahoma could be helpful to students in completing training in some of these growing fields.

The opportunities do not end there. For those who do not wish to earn a bachelor's degree, the OESC predicts that several occupations that require associate degrees are forecast to be on the rise. Through 2018, Oklahoman job seekers may see an increased demand for compliance officers, industrial machinery mechanics, paralegals and purchasing agents. And with these jobs can come increased wages. While those who ended their education in high school may make less than those with some level of college education, those who enter these emerging occupations might find higher salaries.

Online Colleges in Oklahoma

In order to prepare Oklahomans for the state's changing job market, Governor Mary Fallin has stated she is working to facilitate a 67 percent increase in the amount of residents who earn college degrees by 2023, according to NewsOK. In order to help bring that goal to fruition, many institutions are offering online degrees. Among the schools dedicated to online learning in the state is Oklahoma State University (ocampus.okstate.edu), which offers online master's degrees in agriculture, business administration, electrical and computer engineering, management information systems and telecommunications management. In addition, online students can earn graduate certificates in information assurance and business data mining.

The University of Oklahoma (www.ou.edu) also offers a number of online degrees for both undergraduate and graduate students. Online students can earn bachelor's degrees in administration leadership, criminal justice, and the liberal arts, while those seeking master's degree programs can study criminal justice, human and health services administration, and museum studies. In addition, students can find college courses and degree programs through the Online College of Oklahoma, or OCO (www.okelectroniccampus.org), which offers more than 3,000 online courses and 18 degree programs. Since 1998, OCO has worked with a number of colleges and universities around the state and has had 250,000 course enrollments.

Sources:
Education Week, "Oklahoma Board Rescinds E-Course Requirement," February 2011
NewsOK, "Oklahoma Board of Education outlines control of online classes for school districts," March 2012
NewsOK, "Oklahoma City district to open online school," July 2012
NewsOK, "Online education discussed at Oklahoma City conference," July 2010
NewsOK, "Oklahoma higher education officials ask for 9.47 percent budget increase," November 2012
NewsOK"Oklahoma will work to increase number of residents with a degree," September 2011
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission
Oklahoma State University
Online College of Oklahoma
Online Leadership Summit
The Daily Ardmoreite, "Online public school now available in Oklahoma," February 2012
Tulsa World, "Online schooling seeing explosive growth in Oklahoma," August 2011
University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Workforce Oklahoma Occupational Outlook 2018, 2011

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