||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
College of Business Offers
Distance Education Courses |
MAILED:March 3, 1998|
EAU CLAIRE -- For years, many Barron County businesses have struggled with a similar problem: They want their employees to earn four-year degrees but can't afford to have them gone for chunks of time to take the necessary classes.
The employees themselves have said that work and/or family responsibilities make it difficult to continue their education beyond the associate degree offered at UW-Barron County in Rice Lake. It's not practical, they said, to travel to Eau Claire several times a week for classes at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Now, thanks to a UW-Eau Claire College of Business cooperative agreement with UW-Barron County, those employees can earn business credits without making the 60-mile trek to Eau Claire.
UW-Eau Claire's College of Business is offering upper-level business courses via distance education to students who participate in the class from a site at the UW System's two-year campus in Rice Lake, making it possible for students to graduate from UW-Eau Claire with a bachelor of business administration degree without ever having to physically attend classes on UW-Eau Claire's campus.
"These students can integrate college-level education into their lives instead of disrupting their lives and livelihood," said Vance Wilson, whose Winterim Management Information Systems 240 course was the first class offered using the compressed audio/video to accommodate area residents.
Three of the best students in the class - a bank teller, an agri-business owner and a cheese maker - were at the Rice Lake site, Wilson said. "Despite their great interest in education, none of these students had previously enrolled in a four-year program because of the distance of a UW campus from their jobs, families and other commitments," he said.
While students in the pilot MIS class were physically miles apart, the in-class interaction did not suffer, Wilson said, noting that he helped ensure access by creating a Web site with course materials and sending duplicate videos used as course supplements to Rice Lake.
As part of group analysis projects, students from both sites represented different departments in a company with a goal of developing a company-wide management information system, Wilson said.
"In these projects, the departments naturally start treading on each others' turf and a great deal of camaraderie resulted from the back-and-forth exchanges over topics such as 'Whose responsibility is it to transport finished products from the production department to inventory,'" Wilson said, adding that he structured the class so students at both sites got identical treatment in terms of feedback.
Courses are offered during the noon hour or at other times of the day likely to be most convenient for nontraditional students, program coordinator Cindy Hofacker said, adding that employers benefit when employees not only earn degrees, but do so without taking them away from their jobs.
"These students are truly UW-Eau Claire students," Hofacker said of the distance education students who use the facilities at UW-Barron County. "They have the same rights and benefits of students who attend classes on the UW-Eau Claire campus."
Research has shown that many people who live in the northern part of the state want four-year degrees but are unable to get them because commitments make it difficult for them to move to a community offering such programs, Hofacker said. But by coordinating facilities and efforts the Eau Claire and Barron County campuses can meet the needs of these students by offering a "team business degree," Hofacker said, adding that it's important to many that their degree will come from UW-Eau Claire because it's business programs are accredited.
Some students will take all their business courses via distance education, while some will combine distance education classes with on-campus classes depending on their areas of interest, Hofacker said, noting that there is no typical student in the program.
Admission to the College of Business is the same for all students applying to the program, regardless of where they will physically take classes, Hofacker said. "We will keep the admission standards the same," she said. "We need to keep the integrity of the degree but individualize it as best we can to meet the needs of nontraditional students."
With two-year campuses working to boost enrollments and find their niches in the UW System, the distance education program offers opportunities for UW-Barron County to grow, Hofacker said.
"We can all achieve much more if we work together than if we don't," Hofacker said.
The project has been funded by UW-Eau Claire, UW System and the Barron County business community.
An open house celebrating the connection between the two campuses is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. March 12 at UW-Barron County. Tours of the distance education facility will be provided. If you would like more information about the open house or the team business degree program, call Cynthia Hofacker at (715) 836-3880 or (800) 832-7090.
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Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: March 3, 1998