Governor Pawlenty and MnSCU board chair announce online learning initiative

Posted: November 20, 2008

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

Release originally published by the Office of the Governor, Tim Pawlenty

Saint Paul – To expand access, increase technology skills, provide exciting and inspiring course content, and maximize efficiency and use of taxpayer resources, Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) Board of Trustees Chair David Olson today announced a goal to have 25 percent of all system credits earned through online courses by 2015.

In the last academic year, 9.2 percent of all registered credits at system colleges and universities were through online courses.

Approximately 66,000 students, or 26 percent of all credit system students, were enrolled in at least one online course. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities also deliver thousands of additional hybrid courses using a combination of online and face-to-face delivery methods.

"We live in an iPod world but much of our education system is dominated by whiteboards and lecture halls," Governor Pawlenty said. "We have students with different learning styles, different backgrounds, different capabilities, and exploding interest in online opportunities and services. We need to modernize the way college courses are delivered and put Minnesota on the cutting edge of online education."

A report released this month by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, "Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008" says that 22 percent of American college students took at least one web-based class in the fall 2007 semester, an increase of 12.9 percent from the fall 2006 semester. Overall higher education enrollment increased by only 1.2 percent over the same time period.

"There's growing demand for online learning opportunities," Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board Chair David Olson said. "Our board is committed to making this goal a reality in the system." The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities comprises 32 state-supported technical colleges, community colleges and state universities across Minnesota.

In addition to the agreement with the system Board to have 25 percent of credits earned online by 2015, Governor Pawlenty announced a number of steps to make Minnesota a leader and innovator in online learning:

  • Improving Student Access and Support. Governor Pawlenty is asking the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities governing boards to improve student access and support for online courses. Prospective and current students should be able to find online courses and program information easily on both institution and system websites, similar to what is currently found on minnesotaonline.org. Through internet portals, students should find enrolling in a course a seamless process and have access to technology support. Students should expect the same level of quality and support services they receive in face-to-face courses
  • Online Learning Experience Required for High School Graduation. Under the Governor's proposal, the state's high school graduation standards will require every graduate to take an online course, participate in an online experience or participate in online experiences incorporated into other graduation requirements. This proposal is modeled after a similar requirement in Michigan. The new requirement would take effect in 2013
  • $150 Bonus Available for Online Students. The Governor proposes awarding a $150 bonus to students who earn the state's new ACHIEVE scholarship if they also complete an online course while in high school. A $1,200 ACHIEVE scholarship is currently awarded to students who complete a set of rigorous courses while in high school and meet other eligibility criteria. The $150 bonus will be paid out of currently available ACHIEVE scholarship funds
  • Workforce Development and Access for Adult Learners. Non-credit courses are a primary method for non-traditional students to get access to education, as well as a critical tool for workforce development and employee training. They provide a bridge to credit courses and degree programs. Few higher education institutions across the country provide non-credit courses online. The Governor is asking the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to increase their capacity to deliver online non-credit education and training to adult learners and Minnesota businesses
  • Tracking Cost Benefits. The Governor is asking the governing boards of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota to provide direction to institutions to assess and show the cost benefits of delivering online education
  • Possible Online Tuition Reciprocity. The Governor has directed the Minnesota Office of Higher Education to explore establishing online tuition reciprocity agreements with other states to give students more choice and access to online college courses and programs
  • Online Survey and Calculator. Minnesota Office of Higher Education has posted an online survey and calculator (www.ohe.state.mn.us/online) for students to determine their potential to succeed in an online course and the possible savings that could be realized by enrolling in an online course, such as reduced gas expenses, avoidance of daily parking fees, and personal time saved.

"Minnesota State Colleges and Universities has shown great leadership and growth in online learning," Governor Pawlenty said.

The system has worked to bring together their online offerings, incenting faculty and providing centralized support. The number of credits delivered online increased 134 percent from 2005 to 2008, with an estimated 380,000 credits being delivered online this past academic year at system institutions. The number of online credits generated is projected to increase another 20 percent this academic year to an estimated 450,000 credits.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities offers the following entirely online: 82 different associate degrees, 15 bachelor’s degrees, 13 master’s degrees, 97 certificates and one applied doctorate.

Within the system, 68 percent of students enrolled in online courses are women. Sixty two percent are living in Greater Minnesota. Seventy-five percent of students that take an online course also take traditional classroom courses.

"We must increase exposure to online learning and make it a priority," Governor Pawlenty said.

"This is an extraordinary change in how education is delivered. We need to create educational environments that challenge and engage the next generation of students in order to prepare them for success."

Progress toward the goal of having 25 percent of all credits generated through online courses by 2015 will be measured and reported annually in the state’s higher education accountability report, Minnesota Measures.


Minnesota's 31 state community and technical colleges, and universities serve more than 430,000 students across the state.