UW-Platteville celebrates 45 years of pioneering distance education

45 years collage

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville has hit another milestone in its storied history as a pioneer in distance education. This year marks the 45th year the university has provided high-quality distance education to students across the globe.

UW-Platteville has come a long way since the first distance education program was launched in 1978. At that time, the university offered a single print-based distance degree. Today, UW-Platteville boasts a bevy of online programs, including three associate degrees, nine bachelor's degrees and 10 master's degree programs, as well as 16 undergraduate and graduate certificate programs. 

The success of UW-Platteville's Extended Degree Program in the early 1980s allowed hundreds of students to take distance courses. These print-based programs allowed students to earn a degree from the convenience of their homes, receiving and sending assignments through the mail. This degree format was the main vehicle for delivering distance education in the first 20 years it was offered through UW-Platteville. 

As technology advanced, the university was among the nation's first to develop cutting-edge ways of delivering quality programs. In 1999, UW-Platteville became the first public university in Wisconsin to offer degrees 100% online. From the first graduate in 1980 to the more than 3,000 distance graduates today, UW-Platteville's journey in the distance realm has been one of academic and innovative excellence, according to Associate Provost of Distance Programs Dr. Carolyn Keller.

"For 45 years, we have been committed to serving students beyond our physical buildings. Few institutions can boast such an awesome heritage and commitment to excellence," Keller said. "I am proud of where we've been and excited for where we're going. With world-class faculty members and a diverse range of courses, we are dedicated to continuing our legacy of engaged learning that empowers our alumni, current students and future graduates to positively impact their field."

The first online program, the Master of Science in Project Management, was soon followed by online graduate degree programs in engineering and criminal justice. UW-Platteville continued researching and developing new programs to meet market and industry demands, adding bachelor's degrees, associate degree programs and eventually certificates to their online offerings.

Because the university blazed the trail for delivering distance education, it has often served as a model for other institutions looking to establish their own programs. But as technology has evolved, the programs have also, according to longtime Project Management Program Coordinator Bill Haskins.

"Our programs stand out because we've delivered distance education for a very long time, with ample institutional memory and experience to draw upon," Haskins said. "Change is a fact of life, so we also strive to incorporate new content, processes and technology wherever it makes sense to advance student learning. Interactive discussions, small group projects, video resources and guided presentations create a more dynamic learning experience."

Haskins said there are many reasons students seek an online education over a traditional on-campus experience. UW-Platteville's programs are intentionally designed to be asynchronous, allowing students to take classes to fit around their busy schedules. The university also has prioritized supporting students from day one through graduation, with dedicated academic advisors, the state's top online resources and unmatched professor access.

Distance education and online offerings have come a long way since its inception. And if the past 45 years are any indication, the future of distance learning is bright. To learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Platteville's online programs, visit Go.UWPlatt.Edu/Online.