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Halls of ivy meet reality, challenges page 4
Rick Hurley and Steve Greenlaw's op-ed column on the future of college education in America.

 UMW is well regarded for its stellar educational offerings and its beautiful campus.
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Date published: 10/14/2012


If UMW is not doing this to save money, why then is the institution moving in this direction? First, online courses add flexibility to students' schedules. Many of our students are employed; some full-time. Online courses don't "conflict" with the times or places of employment or other courses students are taking. This, and the fact that many of these courses are offered during the summer, should allow students to shorten the time to graduation. In addition, we have commuter students who live as far as two hours from Fredericksburg. Online courses are a significant convenience to those students, saving substantial time and money.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have found ways in which online learning can enhance the learning experience. In contrast to a traditional face-to-face classroom setting, an online version of a regional geography course features an instructor who travels to different regions in the world. In each location, he will interview political and cultural figures, as well as people "on the street," and the interviews are streamed to UMW where they are viewed by students.


UMW is not concerned with Web-based learning merely as a programmatic initiative that moves courses into online domains. Rather, we aim to teach students what they need to learn for life and careers in a digital world. By re-framing the conversation, we move beyond thinking of technology simply as a delivery mechanism for course content and experiences. Instead technology becomes a language in which students must become fluent, not just to solve the problems presented in the classroom today but to adaptively address problems they will face in the future.

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Richard V. Hurley is president of the University of Mary Washington. Steven A. Greenlaw is professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington.