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Sunday, May 29, 2022

UF will house the country’s first fully online, public four-year bachelor’s degree program after the Board of Governors passed its business plan Friday.

UF Online plans to have about 24,000 students by its 10th year — only 57 percent of them in-state students. The program will operate at a loss for the first four years, but the cumulative fund balance at the end of the 10 years should be more than $43.5 million, according to the business plan.

It also laid out specific dates: Nov. 1 is the deadline for applications, and decisions will come out Dec. 1. Classes start Jan. 6.

Joe Glover, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said the program’s goal is to create more access for people who might not be able to come to UF and spend four years as a resident.

Glover said there are currently seven degrees ready for launch, with an increase of five offered majors on a yearly basis for the next six or seven years.

According to the plan, those programs will have to either be among the state’s top 15 employment demand groups or among the top 15 most demanded at UF.

Glover said the standards for admission and coursework will be the same for both online and traditional students.

“UF will not compromise on the rigor of its online programs,” he said. “We will only accept students who can accomplish and benefit from its programs.”

He said current online students are invited to walk at graduation, but the logistics for UF Online’s graduation are still being decided.

Glover said students will already realize huge savings, as two-thirds of student costs are from living at the university. Savings will also come from not having to build classrooms to accommodate the additional students.

Andy McCollough, associate provost for teaching and technology, said there are currently 24 courses in production, and by January, there will be 42 available.

“The challenge has been not getting courses up but how to get courses with emphasis on face-to-face like laboratories,” he said.

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Glover said one of the possible solutions is the creation of “Gator dens,” where groups of students in other areas can gather to study, interact and watch the football games.

Services such as ProctorU, which allows a third party to monitor students’ screens, are being considered for proctoring solutions, Glover said.

According to the UF Online business plan, expected revenue from the program in 10 years is $76,621,846.

Glover said that half of the profits will go back into the program, with the other half being spent on supporting university research.

Betty Phillips, the new executive director of UF Online, wrote in an email she’s eager to get into the details of implementing the program.

“It is an interesting challenge to replicate all aspects of face-to-face teaching online,” she said.

A version of this story ran on page 1 on 9/30/2013 under the headline "Board OKs plans for UF Online"

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