/ Modified oct 19, 2015 8:39 a.m.

UA Works to Grow Online Undergrad Program

First class of 165 students has average age of 32; more counseling, coaching needed.

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This fall for the first time, University of Arizona students could pursue an undergraduate degree totally online.

The university’s inaugural online undergraduate class has 165 students, a number Vincent Del Casino, the vice provost for digital learning and student engagement, hopes will double in January.

“A lot of students are returning, they haven’t completed their degree, and they’re looking for a place to go to have an opportunity to finish what they started,” Del Casino said.

The average age for UA’s online undergraduates is 32. Del Casino said one challenge is to get online students to feel they are part of the UA community.

“One of the things we've done is different than what we do on the main campus is we’ve invested in some academic success specialists – kind of a blending of advising and coaching,” Del Casino said.

Del Casino said the specialists are responsible for about 150 students each. On campus, the ratio for in-person advising is 400 to one.

Del Casino, who teaches a world regional geography course online, said professors must change their lessons to be more interactive. For example, students must create short presentations weekly and then comment on the work of their peers.

“I think online really forces you to get out of your comfort zone if you’ve been more of a traditional lecturing faculty and I enjoyed that but it was also a real challenge,” Del Casino said.

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