UW-Platteville continues to be a pioneer in distance education

Susan Hansen

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is known as the Pioneers, but the moniker is much more than a nickname. The university has been a pioneer and industry leader in distance education since 1978, when it began offering degrees through its print-based program.

“Nobody else in the UW System was doing this, and there were very few programs out there across the country,” said Susan Hansen, the interim Dean for the Division of Professional Studies. “The instructors and the support that was provided to those students kind of stole the show and helped those programs grow.”

Without a road map to reference, the first distance education recruiters pounded the pavement to sell the programs to potential students. As the reputation of the print-based program grew, so did the number of students and degree programs.

“At the time, our print program was very unique across the state, as well as really across the country. The program was housed in the Department of Business and was for a business administration completion degree. Nobody in the system had done this, nobody in Wisconsin had done this.”

Hansen has seen first-hand how the distance programs have grown, developed and thrived over the years. When she first arrived at UW-Platteville in 1991, she taught a print-based business course.

“Since I had never taken a distance course, I didn’t quite know how to go about relating to students that I would never see in person or even necessarily talk to in person,” Hansen said. “I spent a lot of time thinking about my feedback on student papers and student homework.”

The print-based program was the main vehicle for delivering distance education in the first 20 years it was offered through UW-Platteville. As technology developed, the university stayed on the cutting edge. In 1999, the institution became the first public university in Wisconsin to offer degrees online.

“The internet allowed us to make our courses more robust. We’ve gained access beyond what we ever imagined in any history since the printing press,” Hansen said. “I think the key to making distance education successful is that it allows us to teach in different ways, with interactive activities, interactive discussions, videos and guided presentations.”

Because the university blazed the trail for delivering distance education, the university has often served as a model for other institutions looking to establish their own programs. However, Hansen said the key to UW-Platteville’s stance as an industry leader and innovator is a need to evolve.

“I think what helps us stand out is that we’ve done this for a long time, and we’re always changing. We’re always looking for the next way to provide a really robust and solid education,” Hansen said. “Our focus has always been on the quality of the education, the quality of the knowledge, quality of the instructor, and finding new ways to engage with students. It’s a constant process. And I think that dedication to that ideal is what makes us stand out.”

UW-Platteville also continues to evolve its programs to make students both more knowledgeable and marketable by focusing on specialization within its programs.

“What companies and employers want are people that have focused in and developed advanced knowledge in specialized areas. In the case of the M.S. Information Systems or M.S. Strategic Management programs, our degrees are in much more demand than a generic MBA,” Hansen explained. “We also have a growth of individuals in the student population that need to retool their skills to adapt to business changes.”

Hansen said there are a plethora of reasons students seek an online education over a traditional on-campus experience. UW-Platteville’s online programs are intentionally designed to be asynchronous, allowing students to take classes to fit around their busy schedules. She added that the education model is also easier for some learners.

UW-Platteville’s place amongst the best in distance education institutions is cemented by its ability to produce knowledgeable and capable graduates. Thousands of students have earned their distance degrees through UW-Platteville since 1978. Currently, more than 1630 students are taking online classes through UW-Platteville’s Center for Distance Learning. This includes students from 48 states and nine countries, including Canada, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland.

UW-Platteville offers 10 undergraduate degrees including, Associate of Arts and Sciences; Associate of Science in Business Administration; Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences; Bachelor of Science in Applied Computing; and Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, plus Bachelor's of Business Administration in FinanceHuman Resource Management; Integrated Marketing; Integrated Supply Chain Management; and Management. The 10 master’s degree programs are Applied Biotechnology, Criminal Justice; Cybersecurity; Engineering; Healthcare Administration; Information Systems Management, Integrated Supply Chain Management; Organizational Change Leadership; Project Management, and Strategic Management.

To learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s online programs, visit Go.UWPlatt.Edu/Online.