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The added flexibility and convenience of online learning allow students to take classes from anywhere -- including West Virginia and its stunning Appalachian scenery. West Virginia has many options for prospective college students looking to take their education online.

Online Colleges in West Virginia

The West Virginia Department of Education has established several e-learning programs for both students and teachers, such as the WV Virtual School, which is designed to give K-12 students a distance learning option if they are unable take a class locally. Other options include a school credit recovery program called onTargetWV, which helps high-school students graduate, and professional development for educators through the E-learning for Educators Initiative.

Postsecondary online education is spearheaded by the West Virginia Virtual Learning Network (WVVLN), a distance learning consortium comprising 11 state colleges and 10 community and technical colleges that acts as a central portal for those interested in learning more about taking online classes.

The Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus is another valuable resource for West Virginia students looking to explore colleges with online courses and degree programs, whether fully online or in a blended-learning (part online, part face-to-face) format.

One of the state's more recent e-learning initiatives is the West Virginia Remote Online Collaborative Knowledge System (WVROCKS). Launched in fall 2012, WVROCKS gives adult learners who have earned some college credit the option to attain a Regents Bachelor of Arts completely online through participating universities.

Trends in West Virginia Online Schools

Students nationwide are going online for their academic needs. According to an online education study by the Babson Survey Research Group, nearly one-third of all higher education students took at least one course online in 2010, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, and enrollment in most fully online programs continues to grow. Educational institutions are beginning to warm up to e-learning as well. Sixty-five percent of U.S. colleges stated that online learning was a critical part of their long-term strategy, and 67 percent of academic leaders thought the educational value of online education was the same or superior to traditional classes.

West Virginia is taking steps to improve the quality of its online education efforts. A 2011 report by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and West Virginia Community and Technical College System states that the commission has partnered with Quality Matters, a quality-assurance peer-review program for online and blended learning. In July 2012, 72 higher education faculty and staff members began training in the use of the evaluation process. WVVLN is also looking ahead, as the group is increasing its network bandwidth capabilities to accommodate future growth through its Core Infrastructure Project Plan.

College Degrees in West Virginia

The need for college-educated workers is on the rise, both nationally and in West Virginia. According to a 2012 report by the Lumina Foundation entitled "A Stronger Nation through Higher Education," 49 percent of West Virginia jobs will require a college degree in 2018. That figure is significantly higher than the 30 percent of West Virginians who are expected to hold least an associate degree by that year -- potentially creating 115,000 unfulfilled jobs.

Online higher education could prove to be a key piece to solving this employment puzzle. This may be especially true in West Virginia due to the state's high percentage of rural residents, which, according to the 2010 census, account for over half (51 percent) of the state's total population. Living in a rural area can make it difficult to attend traditional colleges -- online learning removes this barrier, as students can take classes and earn their degree from any location. Further efforts in advancing the quality and availability of fully online programs in the state could prove beneficial in producing a more educated workforce, thereby minimizing the disparity between open jobs and qualified workers.

Online College in West Virginia

Marshall University is an example of a West Virginia college that gives its students a variety of ways to engage in online learning. In addition to offering several fully online graduate and undergraduate programs, Marshall University gives current and prospective students two other notable e-learning tools and programs. The school's Online College Courses in the High Schools (OCCHS) program allows high school students to gain college credit by taking classes online. OCCHS offers 100- and 200-level courses in subjects ranging from math and chemistry to history and criminal justice. The school also gives students and faculty free access to Lynda.com, an online software and skills training site with over 1,500 video tutorial courses. Students can polish their digital image editing skills, learn the basics of search engine marketing, watch documentaries on industry experts, and much more.

Other postsecondary schools. like West Virginia University, have similar online degree and high school outreach programs. West Virginia University has also created a teaching assistance program called iDesign, which helps educators design engaging interactive content for both online and traditional courses, and showcases best practices for online teaching.

Sources:
Lumina Foundation, A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education, 2012
Marshall University, Online College Courses in the High Schools
Sloan Consortium, Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011
Quality Matters
West Virginia e-Learning for Educators Initiative
West Virginia Remote Online Collaborative Knowledge System
West Virginia Department of Education
West Virginia Virtual Learning Network

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