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South Dakota has long been an early promoter of distance learning. Now, that vision has expanded into online learning choices for middle-school and high-school students as well as online degrees in South Dakota that can be pursued by undergraduate or graduate students.

Online Colleges in South Dakota

South Dakota is hardly a newcomer to online and distance education, as South Dakota State University has been offering distance education classes since before the internet even came into being. In fact, distance learning choices have been available for some 80 years through the school, according to its website. The state of South Dakota can be considered a true pioneer in providing alternative options for learning. These alternatives may be particularly beneficial in a vast and sparsely-populated state such as South Dakota, where students might have limited academic options due to these characteristics.

To achieve this reach on the secondary school level, the South Dakota Virtual School (sdvs.k12.sd.us) was created, allowing many high school students in South Dakota to take courses via its online program. Students can take courses online, which is an advantage whether they are seeking coursework that is not offered in their district or hoping to complete credit recovery. Students have to register through their home schools, but they can complete their coursework on their own schedule. All courses have to be approved by the South Dakota Department of Education.

Trends in South Dakota Online Schools

The South Dakota Board of Regents has made it easy for students at online colleges in South Dakota to view course offerings from participating universities through its single-platform site Desire2Learn (d2l.sdbor.edu). Students can view classes and become familiar with the D2L Learning Management System. Participating universities include Black Hills State University, Northern State University, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota.

The Electronic University Consortium of South Dakota (worldclasseducation.org) provides a single point of contact for information and access to distance education available from the state's six public universities. The user-friendly website, which also integrates social media, provides a starting place for prospective students to explore online colleges in South Dakota. The Consortium's mission of leveraging state technology investments to make effective use of the unique strengths of each public university is intended to help better serve the people of South Dakota. Through the site, students can apply for admission to the university that offers the program or course of their choice.

College Degrees in South Dakota

State leaders have long lamented the so-called South Dakota "brain drain," referring to the number of South Dakota students who either study in other states, or college graduates who don't come back to their home state following completion of a degree. However, recent reports confirm that the state has been able to reverse that trend, at least according to a December 2012 article published on Argusleader.com. The same article indicates that the state has done a better job at attracting out-of-state students and keeping them in South Dakota following graduation.

According to a 2012 report by CNN Money, Pennington County, home to Rapid City, could be one of that best counties in South Dakota in which to find a job. Driven by tourism and the low cost of business, the area is attracting companies in the medical, military and technology sectors. While South Dakota has a relatively educated workforce, it may face a college graduate gap of 7.4 percent by 2025, according to the non-profit Lumina Foundation (luminafoundation.org).

Online colleges in South Dakota may help create an educated workforce. Professional development opportunities may also be helpful in keeping South Dakota college graduates in the state, which is an endeavor that has proven to be successful. Nearly a third of out-of-state students graduating from the state's higher education system stay in the state to work or pursue additional education, reports Argusleader.com.

Online College in South Dakota

South Dakota State University (sdstate.edu/cee/distance/) has provided off-campus education options for more than eight decades. Students have access to a large variety of courses and degrees, including online certificate programs in agricultural and environmental law, bioenergy and sustainable technology, and swine science, as well as a several online bachelor's and master's degrees such as dietetics, educational administration, human sciences, nursing and rural sociology.

Through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (gpidea.org/), SDSU has also partnered with top-notch higher education institutions in the region to offer online graduate degrees, with courses taught by some of the experts in their field. Kilian Community College, located in Sioux Falls, offers an innovative bachelor's degree for those who already hold an associate degree from the college via its Presentation College, which combines online learning with on-site courses.

The University of South Dakota, the state's leading research university, offers several bachelor's and master's degrees through online learning. The school also offers graduate certificates in areas such as addiction studies, literacy leadership learning, nonprofit management and others. One of the additional advanced online degrees in South Dakota offered through the University of South Dakota is the Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy, the first online doctoral program to be available online through the state's higher education system.

Sources:
Argus Leader, "Stats debunk South Dakota's brain drain myth," December 2012
CNN Money, "Where the jobs are," August 2012
Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance
Kilian Community College, Baccalaureate Through Distance Learning
Lumina Foundation, South Dakota
South Dakota Board of Regents, Desire2Learn
South Dakota State University, Distance Education
South Dakota Virtual School
University of South Dakota, Off-Campus and Distance Learning

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