UNC Chapel Hill Launches MPA@UNC Online Graduate Program With 2tor, Inc.
By Wired Academic Staff
March 26, 2012
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said Monday that it will offer a Master of Public Administration (MPA) program in a new online format, partnering with 2tor Inc. for a second master’s degree program geared toward working professionals.
The move represents another example of higher-ranked brick and mortar schools offering online programs geared toward working adults in a way that preserves their brand while expanding the number of qualified students who can study at the institution. It represents a threat to for-profit schools that have grown rapidly in the last decade by offering online degree programs to working adults but also come under fire for cutting corners in admissions and other areas.
“We typically admit about 30 high-performing students per year into the on-campus program, but this online option will enable us to extend the reach of our program and provide many more highly qualified students with the opportunity to earn an MPA from a top-ranked university,” said William C. Rivenbark, MPA program director, at UNC.
The program dubbed “MPA@UNC” will require the same selection admissions criteria as the on-campus program and gives graduates online and on-campus the same curriculum, internship requirements and UNC MPA degree. It will admit its first group of roughly 20 students this fall and will begin classes in January, 2013. It is likely to grow in both enrollment and in faculty hired to teach them in coming years, according to officials at the institutions.
UNC officials say the same faculty will design and teach classes online and on-campus. Classes will be kept to a maximum of 15 students per faculty member. MPA@UNC students will be invited to go through graduation ceremonies at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Governments and nonprofits need strategic thinkers at every level and public servants who can lead us through current and future challenges,” said Mike Smith, dean of the School of Government. “With the addition of this online MPA option, qualified students will be able to choose a program that fits their life needs and their learning preferences, and we will expand our positive impact on communities across the country.”
The program will offer live sessions with 2tor Inc.’s learning management technology that includes live streaming video. It allows faculty and students to see and hear each other as they discuss course topics, meet in study groups or hold face to face meetings during office hours. The program will also include an interactive social technology platform that allows students to chat, study and join communities with other classmates and professors.
Landover, Maryland,-based 2tor already operates an online MBA program for UNC as well as an online nursing program for Georgetown University, masters in education and in social work at University of Southern California. The company provides the technology platform, instructional design, marketing and infrastructure support for established colleges to offer “rigorous, selective degree programs online.”
As a partner with existing, credible universities, 2tor represents a competitive threat to less selective for-profit colleges, and with it’s 2U learning management system, it also poses a challenge to learning management systems from Blackboard, Pearson and others. Since it launched in 2008, 2tor has raised $65 million in venture funding and employs 350 people in several offices, including one in Hong Kong and one at each campus where it operates an online graduate program.
“In the UNC School of Government, we’ve found a forward-thinking team eager to innovate and push the boundaries of graduate education,” said Chip Paucek, co-founder and CEO of 2tor, Inc. “We are impressed by the faculty’s leadership in local and state governments, and thrilled to partner with a school widely regarded as the largest university-based organization for local government training, advising and research in the United States.”
He notes that most graduate degree programs at major universities in the US are quite small, with masters or doctoral students in the dozens at given programs. One exception, however, are MBA programs, which often host hundreds of students in top programs. UNC “is interested in unleashing itself from the barriers of requiring people to move to Chapel Hill,” he notes. Paucek adds, however, that the Chapel Hill campus is quite gorgeous. And, of course, being on campus puts students a bit closer to the perennial powerhouse basketball program, which was in the Final Four again this year.
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