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UI Courses Adapt to Expanding Job Market

University of Iowa officials said the college is creating more educational programs based on the expansion of the job market.

"The university is relatively traditional, but it's trying to maximize opportunities for students," said Chet Rzonca, UI associate provost for the distance-education program.

Fluctuations in the job market—more jobs cropping up in such areas as marketing, nursing, and communications—have led colleges and universities across the nation to develop new ways to prepare students for the changing market.

Terry Rhodes, curriculum expert at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said digitization is where more colleges are focusing.

"Business and professional fields have to keep up with new jobs that become available as new technologies appear," Rhodes said. "They must keep up with the job growth that results from the use of digital tools."

It is up to higher education to better prepare students, he said.

UI officials said as more working people go back to school for additional education, distance-learning programs allow these students the flexibility they need. Distance-learning programs are online classes mixed with traditional courses.

According to a 2010-11 Annual Distance Education Report, nearly 106,000 students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and noncredit distance-education courses, an increase from nearly 95,000 the previous school year.

The UI offers four online degrees—Bachelor's in applied studies and liberal studies, RN and BSN, entrepreneurial management, and school administration.

And technology plays a key roll in the growth of distance education programs, which supplements traditional classroom settings.

During the 2010-11 school year, the UI offered courses in 158 distance-learning programs, an increase from 146 during 2009-10. Most courses are a mixture of online and traditional class. As instructors teach in a classroom with students they are recorded, later posting the tape online for other students around the state and other areas. The UI also provides site-based classes taught in various Iowa community colleges through video chat programs.

To stay up to date, Rzonca said, the UI is also teaching uses of technology in its classes. Rzonca said the UI Tippie College of Business has shown the most growth in digital changes.

"The business program is really stepping out. It's leading the way in its offering of new programs," Rzonca said.

But certain nursing distance programs are expanding beyond mixed classes, said UI Dean of the College of Nursing Rita Frantz.

"We offer quite an array of distance programs, and they're primarily web-based," Frantz said. "We have a large applicant pool for these online programs, more than we can take. And they're all very successful. We have almost a 100 percent pass rate."

In 2010-11, nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in health-related distance education programs.

Rhodes said web-based classes are the best way to reach students.

"[Universities] need to engage in different ways to keep up to match the new fields appearing. They also need to keep up with students, who are already using this technology," he said.

Though digital programs are beneficial, Rhodes said, universities need to make sure they can apply their knowledge effectively.

"[Teaching new programs] is not just about teaching how to use technology, it's about the implications behind it," said Rhodes.

However, entrepreneurial program professors say entrepreneurial courses taught online and in traditional classrooms meet these expectations.

"I want students to look beyond websites from the consumer view and look from a business standpoint. I want them to be reactionary," said Alex Taylor, associate director of the Executive MBA Program in the Tippie College of Business.

UI officials agree that this change to new programs that utilize and teach new technologies is the effect the job market is having.

"The market looks for [digital] skills and will continue to. In that respect, the market does shape what we're doing," Taylor said.


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