University of Illinois: Distance Learning Programs In-Depth

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University of Illinois Online
Urbana, Illinois

Distance Learning Program

Established in winter of 1997, U of I Online is a university-wide initiative providing coordination and support to the three campuses of the University of Illinois (Chicago, Springfield, and Urbana-Champaign) in the area of online education and public service. Its primary goal is to increase the number of high-quality online education programs available to place-bound and time-restricted students in the U.S. and internationally.

During its brief history, U of I Online has supported the development of more than sixty new online programs (including professional degrees, master's degrees, and several baccalaureate-completion programs). Several U of I Online master's programs have already had four or more graduating classes. During the spring 2003 semester, the three campuses reported 8,089 total enrollments with 7,459 of these via the Internet.

U of I Online is administered through the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. An Online Management Committee, with representatives from all three campuses, serves as the core planning group for U of I Online programs and services. In addition, a small administrative staff attends to intercampus coordination, public relations and outreach, program development, support, research, and evaluation.

Delivery Media

Online courses can be quite varied in their overall approach to the teaching and learning process, but they often have certain characteristics in common. In most online courses, students use a computer to connect to a course site on the World Wide Web. Standard classroom books and printed materials are typically used in combination with online lectures, assignments, and supplementary course materials. Some courses have formal lectures, similar in length and content to lectures given in face-to-face classes. Online lectures may be entirely text-based or consist of some combination of text, graphics, sound, and video. Other courses break the content up into smaller units or abandon the lecture entirely, instead relying on group discussion and other types of learning activities.

Students communicate with their professors and other students via e-mail and electronic submissions. The courses are designed so that students receive course assignments, complete them on their own time, and then return them as electronic documents. Instructors evaluate them and provide feedback. Many courses also use, as an integral part of the course, a threaded discussion forum, which students can use to share information, collaborate, and interact with other members of the class.

Depending on the course design, students may take tests or exams online or go to a testing room on campus or at a local community college. In addition, some courses and programs may require predetermined trips to the campus, which students should plan for before registering.

Ever since the first student walked through its doors in 1867, the University of Illinois (U of I) has been a tremendous resource for the State of Illinois. Founded in response to the federal Land Grant Act of 1862, the University immediately met an important need of providing higher education opportunities for working-class people.

For more than 135 years, the University has educated hundreds of thousands of sons and daughters of Illinois, the nation, and the world. The U of I Alumni Association is the second largest in the country, drawing its membership from about 520,000 living alumni.

The University of Illinois continually seeks to expand its critical role in the economic, educational, and technological health of the state. University operations have a direct yearly impact of $4.6 billion on the state's economy, a payback more than seven times greater than the state's annual tax investment. More than 68,000 jobs are directly tied to the University, including nearly 9,000 manufacturing and construction jobs and nearly 20,000 jobs tied to spending by staff, students, and visitors.

University of Illinois Online (U of I Online) is the central source for information regarding the online degree programs, online courses, and public-service activities offered by the Chicago, Springfield, and Urbana-Champaign campuses of the University of Illinois.

The three campuses are fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Many of the individual programs are additionally accredited by associations specific to their fields of study.

Students should expect to spend as much time, or perhaps more, for study as they would for a classroom course, because they are managing their own learning using the online information and materials. This requires that students be self-disciplined, motivated, and have some skills using a networked computer and a Web browser. The content and rigor of the online courses offered by the University of Illinois are generally equivalent to the on-campus version of the same course. In fact, in some cases, on-campus and off-campus students are combined into the same course section.

Programs of Study

U of I Online offers programs of study leading to bachelor's, master's, and professional degrees and to certificates.

Bachelor's degrees can be earned in six areas: computer science, English, history, liberal studies, mathematical sciences, and philosophy.

Graduate programs lead to the Master of Arts in educational leadership, the Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership Online (M.T.L.), the Master of Business Administration Online (M.B. A.), the Master of Computer Science (M.C.S.), the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.), the Master of Health Professions Education (M.H.P.E.), and the Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (M.S.M.E.).

Other areas of master's degrees include agriculture education; community college teaching and learning; curriculum, technology, and education reform; global human resource development; global studies in education; health professions studies; library and information science (L.E.E.P.); management information systems, and public health informatics (M.P.H.).

The wide range of certificate programs include botanicals for women's health, business English online, career specialist studies, Certified Fire Fighter II, computer science (computer security, information systems, networks and distributed systems, software engineering, systems software), CME online–specialty needs for primary-care physicians, current trends in glaucoma treatment, e-business strategy, electrical and computer engineering (electromagnetic technology, integrated circuits, power and energy systems, telecommunications, and signal processing), engineering (material, materials failure, hazardous waste risk and remediation, strategic technology management, wireless communication technology), fund development for nonprofit managers, GME core curriculum, health informatics, Illinois teacher certification in postsecondary mathematics, legal aspects in education, marketing strategy in the digital age, math teacher link, NetMath, new advances in the management of dyslipidemia, nonprofit management, online secondary (6–12) math certification, philosophy, planning commissioner, public housing, renewing project management, school nursing, specialist in blood bank technology, teaching certificate in nursing education, the culture of U.S. business, and veterinarian education online.

Professional development sequences are available in community college teaching and learning, dairy science, engineering law and management, French translation, Unix and Linux training, and writers series.

Special Programs

The University of Illinois offers several Guided Individual Study (GIS) courses and other special programs. Because these offerings change frequently, students should refer to the Office of Continuing Education's Academic Outreach Web site for more information (

Student Services

The University of Illinois provides a wide variety of support services to online students. Detailed information about these services is available at the following Web sites: and

Credit Options

Credit options vary depending upon the individual program of interest as well as the campus from which it is offered. Students should visit for detailed information.


Online courses or programs offered by the three campuses of the University of Illinois are taught by many of the same professors who teach in person. Approximately 95 percent of all online faculty members hold a doctoral degree. Approximately 75 percent of all online faculty members are employed full-time.


Admission requirements and procedures vary depending upon the individual program of interest as well as the campus from which it is offered. Detailed information concerning these requirements and procedures is available at

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and fees for U of I Online courses vary from campus to campus and program to program. In many cases, the costs are similar to those for on-campus classes at the University of Illinois. There are, however, some exceptions. General information about the tuition and fees for courses on each campus is provided at

Financial Aid

Financial aid varies from campus to campus. For detailed information see


University of Illinois Online
337 Henry Administration Building
506 South Wright Street, MC 353
Urbana, Illinois 61801
Phone: 217-244-6465
866-633-UIOL (8465) (toll-free)
Fax: 217-333-5040
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site:


The application process varies from campus to campus. Students should contact the individual program of interest regarding the application process and requirements.