Forty-two years after its first correspondence course was introduced and administered via postal mail, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s distance education programs surpassed 3,000 graduates. The milestone, which the university reached with the summer 2020 graduating class, comes 40 years after it celebrated the first distance education graduate. Today, the programs serve over 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students worldwide.
UW-Platteville’s innovative distance learning program was created in 1978, offering a single bachelor’s degree in business administration available only through print-based classes. As the student population grew, so did the program. With the addition of dedicated instructors and staff came other milestones: the first graduating class of five in 1981; the introduction of computers, email and a website; and the first students from outside Wisconsin in 1997.
More students and new technologies presented a need for additional programs and delivery modes. Dawn Drake, the executive director in charge of distance education, saw the opportunity to fulfill this need by developing online classes and degrees. In 1999, the distance learning program introduced three online master’s degrees in engineering, project management and criminal justice – the first degrees to be offered entirely online in the UW System.
Since then, the distance programs have grown exponentially to include three online associate degrees, eight online bachelor’s degrees, nine online master’s degrees and twelve online certificates, with business courses still offered in the print-based format. The programs had over 1,000 graduates by UW-Platteville’s 35th anniversary of distance education in 2013. Just seven years later, that number had tripled.
The largest alumni base comes from the Master of Science in Project Management program. Coordinator Bill Haskins has been a part of the program for over 17 years. “In the late 1990s, UW-Platteville launched its online degree suite of programs. No other UW System institution came even close to UW-Platteville’s online presence,” he said. “Today, UW-Platteville remains a dominant force in online degree delivery in Wisconsin. With over 900 graduates, the MSPM program is a key factor in UW-Platteville’s success in the distance education domain. I’ve been fortunate and honored to lead the MSPM program for nearly all of those 900 grads, who work in disciplines ranging from art to zoology, and who live in states from coast to coast.”
UW-Platteville remains a pioneer in distance education, not only for its innovative degree programs but also for its dedication to the students it serves. When the university hit 1,000 distance education graduates, Drake, who retired in 2018, said, “We’re not scrambling to reach 100,000 students. And that’s okay, because we understand that there’s a real person behind every degree we grant.”
That statement rings true today, as the distance education programs maintain their focus on providing online courses and degrees that are flexible, accessible, student-centered and aim to help students reach their educational and professional goals.
UW-Platteville offers 11 undergraduate degrees, including Associate of Arts and Sciences; Associate of Science in Business Administration; Associate of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management; 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 Finance, Human Resource Management, Integrated Marketing, Integrated Supply Chain Management, and Management. The nine master’s degree programs are Applied Biotechnology, Criminal Justice, Cybersecurity, Engineering, Healthcare Administration, 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.