jwu launches online learning

jwu launches online learning

Virtual Campus Poised for Growth
Online Learning 2 232x162

By Dick Upson

Johnson & Wales University is in the midst of preparing for the launch of online degree programs. Starting in September 2010, students will be able to complete the third and fourth years of a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management or Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management online. “These degrees are for individuals who already have an associate degree in either culinary arts or baking and pastry arts and have completed their AS degree at least two years ago,” says Amy Ricci, JWU director of online learning.

The key to JWU’s virtual campus is ulearn, the university’s course delivery platform. Students submit assignments and take exams and quizzes through ulearn and interact with each other and faculty via email and discussion boards. Class size is limited to 20 students.

Ricci says the univeristy has two primary goals for online programming: One is to expand JWU’s reach to new populations through degree programs that are entirely online. “The second angle is to enhance the JWU experience for our residential students at the four campuses by using online courses to increase course options for them.” Faculty from all four JWU campuses are collaborating on class content. Another aspect of the experience emphasizes the advantages of distance learning. “Ulearn is asynchronous. Students and faculty do not have to be online at any specific time,” Ricci notes.

While expanding its virtual campus, the university intends to maintain its commitment to high academic standards, she stresses. “Each [online] course goes through a quality review by instructors across the university who are familiar with the curriculum … as well as a review for logistics and navigation.”

Experiential education, a hallmark of a JWU education, was also being considered in the formation. “The university continues to be committed to hands-on learning,” says Provost Veera Gaul, PhD, ’91 MS.

The “learn by doing” nature of some courses has led to modifying at least one component to be part of the 2010 launch. “There is one course that we felt strongly was a capstone class … that could not be offered purely in the online format,” Gaul says. “Lab time will be provided through a residency requirement of five days for the fully online students.”

Gaul anticipates that the university will begin to aggressively market its online program over the next few months. “We expect, based on national trends, to see significant interest in our initial programs, given our reputation in the hospitality and culinary fields.” The ulearn platform will also be phased in for “face-to-face” courses over the next few years.

No matter how the final course components are developed, there is no question that the demand for JWU’s virtual campus will continue to increase, even as its “bricks and mortar” presence remains solid. The university took a pragmatic approach to positioning content rather than trying to challenge other online learning providers, says Gaul. “It is our intent, not to compete head on with these well-entrenched programs, but instead to continue to leverage our strength, especially in the hospitality and culinary arenas and provide quality education in these niche markets.”

JWU’s commitment to online education will ensure that the university is positioned to thrive in 2010 and beyond. Its virtual campus is poised for intelligent growth. Gaul says, “Once we have developed the processes and can assure that we are providing appropriate services … we will continue to expand our offerings to attract continuing education and non-traditional students.”

Information about the online program can be found at www.jwu.edu/onlinelearning or by contacting Joanne McQuesten at jmcquesten@jwu.edu