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National initiative to keep students learning conceived at UIS

September 6, 2005

SPRINGFIELD – A major national initiative funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to provide free online college courses for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina was conceived by an administrator at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Ray Schroeder, Director of the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning at UIS, along with Burks Oakley, Director of U of I Online, originated the initiative toward which the Sloan Foundation will contribute more than $1 million.  The initiative, which is expected to accommodate about 10,000 student enrollments, consists of offering displaced students a first ever, free special eight-week accelerated semester to keep them learning, beginning on October 10, 2005.

Related sites

UIS Office of Admissions
Sloan Semester
UIS responds to Katrina

The initiative grew out of a grant proposal that Schroeder had submitted to the Sloan Foundation earlier in the summer.  He had proposed to host a conference on the use of online learning technologies to continue the delivery of the curriculum in emergency situations that required the closure of the campus.  UIS has put in place an emergency plan that does just that.  While that proposal was still under review, Hurricane Katrina struck.  The storm’s devastating impact on universities in the delta region prompted Schroeder and Oakley to contact the foundation again to ask that they be given an opportunity to put the idea into motion.

“This initiative is unique among the many relief efforts because it will directly involve the impacted institutions in identifying desired courses and matching up students with the courses they need to progress toward their degrees,” Schroeder said.

The Sloan Consortium, an international association of colleges and universities committed to high-quality online education, will carry out the program in collaboration with the Southern Regional Education Board.  UIS, a member of the Sloan Consortium, is among more than 60 institutions of higher learning that will offer the program, which will provide a wide range of courses to serve the learning needs of students at the community college, university, and graduate levels, regardless of academic discipline.

UIS and the other participating universities and colleges will forgo tuition and fees for those students who were attending institutions disrupted by Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. “We will serve as surrogate universities for the students who have been displaced,” Schroeder said.  UIS and the other participating colleges and universities will offer classes that will be transferred back to the students’ home institutions.

“Online learning can be an important means of academic continuity in a time of crisis,” said Frank Mayadas, Program Director for the Sloan Foundation.  “We are getting a tremendous response from both those who want to offer courses and from impacted institutions that need the help.”

The Southern Regional Education Board, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is the nation’s first interstate compact for education.  Created in 1948 by Southern states, SREB helps government and education leaders work cooperatively to advance education and, in doing so, to improve the social and economic life of the region.  Included in its 16 member states are Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Schroeder and Oakley were joined by Olin University professor John Bourne, Executive Director of the Sloan Consortium, and Bruce N. Chaloux, Director of the Electronic Campus Southern Regional Education Board, to work out the details of the initiative.

Students interested in finding out more about the program and the free courses can do so at www.SloanSemester.org.

 

 

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.
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