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Utah has a number of well-known colleges and universities, and its commitment to advancing online education can be seen through recent state legislative efforts. Finding an online college in Utah is simple, and the variety of distance-learning programming may be surprising to students in the state and beyond.

Online Colleges in Utah

Online education is a trend that seems to be here to stay, and a struggling economy has motivated many people to return to school to acquire a degree or pursue postsecondary training. Online learning continues to change and expand, and some states, such as Utah, are adopting policies to promote additional student access to learning. Even at the postsecondary level, changes can be seen. From online associate degrees to upper-level programs in unique fields, online colleges in Utah are providing a variety of selections to help students advance their education with increased flexibility.

As part of the state's push toward online education, in 2011 Utah established the Statewide Online Education Program (www.schools.utah.gov/edonline) through the Utah State Office of Education (schools.utah.gov). This movement to promote online schools in Utah for students in grades nine through 12 helps the state to more readily reach students and meet their needs despite family income, or instances of language, residency location or special needs. Choosing from any of the approved schools in the program, students can take up to two credits of coursework per semester, and can complete more credits online after approval. Students can register for a number of offerings, including classes in art appreciation, computer technology, music therapy and world history.

Trends in Utah Online Schools

A 2011 Huffington Post blog made mention of Utah's Open High School (openhighschool.org), which served ninth and tenth-grade students through its virtual charter school platform at the time. The school intends to expand its online services to grades nine through 12 by 2014, and is looking to serve more than 1,500 online students in Utah. In addition to encouraging students to connect in person through ongoing social events, the school also makes a commitment to using open education resources and sharing anything added or created through Creative Common licenses.

In early January 2013, the Utah State Office of Education launched its Utah Open Textbook Project. The project features a group of motivated educators working together to design and collaborate on open source textbooks that will be available for high school science classes in the state. In addition, Park City, Utah, has been selected to host a wide-reaching event related to open education. In November, the city will be home to the 10th annual Open Education Conference (openeducationconference.org/2013), which will address open education trends and changes. Speakers are invited to attend and address topics that have included open source textbooks and best practices for open teaching.

College Degrees in Utah

Online degrees in Utah may be helpful in producing a more highly-educated workforce, which the state may need by 2025, according to estimates by the Lumina Foundation. That private foundation indicates that 39.7 percent of the state's adults now hold a minimum of at least a two-year degree, slightly above the national average, but 217,252 degrees will need to be complete by 2025 to help meet workforce demands. If effort is not made by schools and individuals between now and then, a skills gap of 15 percent could exist in the state, dropping it from its current rank as the 20th most educated workforce in the U.S. to 45th, according to the Lumina Foundation. Summit County, Utah, may be well on its way, with 59.54 percent of its adult population having at least an associate degree, but areas like Beaver County and Uintah County, with 19.7 and 21.1 percent of adults holding associate degrees, respectively, may be in need of help.

Online colleges in Utah can be helpful in creating more college-level graduates and a more educated workforce. Students need only head online to search the variety of degree programs and fields that are offered through colleges and other institutions in the state. These programs can help them to consider their career choices. For example, occupations for compliance officers, financial examiners and petroleum engineers are predicted to be some of the fastest growing in Utah between 2008-2018, according to CareerOneStop, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Job growth is projected above 40 percent for each of those occupations. Distance learning degrees in accounting, business, finance and engineering may be useful to anyone wanting to enter those occupations, but online programs in Utah could help any student or adult wishing to pursue higher education.

Online Colleges in Utah

Brigham Young University (byu.edu) offers a variety of online coursework available to interested learners. Free online courses are offered in areas such as family history and genealogy, gardening, math, and personal and family finance. The school's Independent Study branch offers online coursework for middle and high school students, as well as online college-level offerings in areas such as accounting, business management and math. It also offers online for-credit courses in a variety of languages, including Biblical Hebrew, French, German and Japanese. In all, more than 550 online courses are available to interested learners. BYU Independent Study has received more than 30 national course awards from the American Association of Collegiate Independent Study and the University Continuing Education Association, according to the school website.

Utah Valley University's (uvu.edu) online course options include associate degrees, as well as a Bachelor's of Science in Aviation. The latter allows students to choose either an aviation administration or professional pilot emphasis, but students can explore sample activities, courses and videos online to discover more about how the distance learning program works. Smaller schools, such as Dixie State University (dixie.edu), located in the southern part of the state, offer unique courses and programs. The school has an entirely online Bachelor's of Science in Dental Hygiene program, which aims to prepare students to test for the National Board of Dental Hygiene Exam, as well as regional or state boards, according to the school website.

Sources:
Brigham Young University
Dixie State University
Huffington Post: "Open High: A Great Choice and Contribution"
Lumina Foundation
Utah Valley University
Utah Open Textbook Project
Statewide Online Education Program

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