Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Part Two of an Exclusive Interview with Dr. Susan Aldridge

An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Susan Aldridge
President, University of Maryland University College

In a two part series, Dr. Susan Aldridge, President of the University of Maryland University College responds to eight questions from Education The Natural Bridge (ETNB).

What role does business and industry have in the development of your academic programs and have you partnered with local and national organizations to enhance the academic achievement of UMUC students?

Dr. Aldridge: Every UMUC degree program is developed to meet the needs of our nation’s workforce, so that students can easily apply a degree to a career.

To ensure the quality and real-world application of our academic programs, UMUC has created a worldwide learning network, which includes a growing number of collaborative relationships with other institutions of higher education, federal, state and local governments, and corporations. One example is a recent collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, which inspired the university to launch the first-ever comprehensive higher education initiative to meet the growing demand for knowledge leaders in cybersecurity. This fall, UMUC is launching bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in cybersecurity, which were also created in response to calls from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to establish Maryland as a cybersecurity hub. UMUC’s new programs will help fill the critical need for thousands of cybersecurity professionals in the months and years ahead.

ETNB: How has technology allowed UMUC to expand internationally?

Dr. Aldridge: UMUC has had an international presence since 1949, providing education to military service members in Europe. Since then, UMUC’s online courses and student services have allowed the university to serve students no matter where they are, as long as they have access to the World Wide Web.

ETNB: Share with us how student services is delivered through technology and does student services look different to students in Distance Education?

Dr. Aldridge: Online and on-site students all benefit from the same commitment to outstanding student services. As a university with operations on three different continents and nearly 90,000 students located across 25 time zones, it is essential that we have a system in place to streamline student services and provide access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our student records have all been digitally uploaded through UMUC’s Singularity Suite, which enables student services to access student information quickly and efficiently. This technology, which was implemented in 2008, has helped streamline student services for both online and on-site students.

ETNB: If I say this statement, "Technology has further democratized education". Would you agree? If so, what would you add to that statement?

Dr. Aldridge: I would absolutely agree. Technology has made education more attainable and flexible for students looking to pursue a bachelor’s degree or advance their careers while working full-time and/or raising a family. It has “broken down the walls” of many brick-and-mortar schools, with 97 percent of two and four-year institutions offering some degree programs online. In fact, a recent survey showed that fall 2008 online enrollments were up 17 percent nationwide over the previous year, with about 4.6 million students taking at least one class online.

Especially in this economy, it is all the more important for institutions to offer more online opportunities for students to change or enhance their careers.

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