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Advancing Online Education: New SoHE degree option lights the way for UW–Madison overall

Editor’s note: This article was originally published as part of SoHE’s 2020 alumni print mailer. View the full mailer on our alumni page.

Computer Screen of Bascom Hall at DuskIn 2019, well before the changes brought by the novel coronavirus, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced the goal of providing comprehensive online degree programs for students who are unable to be on campus due to work, family, or other circumstances. This fall, in a first step toward that vision, students began logging on to earn UW–Madison’s first fully online degree: a Bachelor of Science in Personal Finance from the School of Human Ecology.

Growing enrollment numbers, high-quality coursework, rapid career growth projections, and SoHE’s reputation as a campus innovator made Personal Finance a top choice for campus. “We’re willing to experiment,” explains Annette McDaniel, SoHE’s Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. “Our dean and faculty have a growth mindset. So, when the opportunity was presented, we jumped at it.”

To get Personal Finance online, SoHE faculty partnered with UW–Madison instructional technology designers to build-out coursework. New classes were created and existing ones tweaked to form a seamless learning package that meets UW–Madison’s rigorous standards. “It was learning and building as we went along. Delivering a quality professional experience to a new student audience took a full campus commitment,” states McDaniel.

The online model was a collaboration between SoHE’s Consumer Science and Student Academic Affairs departments, UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies, Office of the Registrar, Undergraduate Advising, Division of Information Technology, Libraries, Center for First-Year Experience, and Offices of the Provost and Chancellor. The UW–Madison College of Letters & Science, School of Business, and other SoHE departments developed online courses to round out general education requirements.

Students in traditional programs also benefit from the fresh approach to coursework, notes McDaniel, and older students (as many in online degree programs tend to be) with broader life experiences create a more diverse student body that enhances learning for all.

The work done throughout campus for the new Personal Finance program is a model for future online degrees. It expands UW–Madison’s mission to reach students across the state and around the world and empowers more Badgers to reach their potential and achieve their dreams.

“What our online students will have in common with on-campus students is a rigorous course load, demanding professors, and top-notch student advising.” —SOYEON SHIM, DEAN

Thanks to the Sharon A. Stark Financial Education Scholarship, one online Personal Finance student will receive funding for a three-credit class!