UVM fosters first online certificate

  A UVM sustainability program certificate may be just a click away.   Through a new educational initiative, University officials recently launched a certificate program in sustainability that exists completely online.   “They are designed for a professional audience,” said Amanda Chaulk, a marketing specialist in the Continuing Education office.   Chaulk said she believes that by integrating alternative learning into the curriculum, the University can expand its programs without having to invest in new infrastructure, such as dorms and academic buildings.         The online sustainability certificate program was sparked by high demand, and the administration hopes it will encourage the “nontraditional” student to feel like a welcome member of the community, she said   “Diversifying the type of student is always important,” Chaulk said. “This falls in with our mission.”   With more and more people finding the conveniences of online learning hard to resist, universities must adapt their education models to accommodate the changing times, Chaulk said.    The training program, which does not offer credit, seeks to empower students hoping to transform various institutions into models of sustainability by evaluating dining services, water and waste treatment, transportation, and energy efficiency, according to the program’s webpage.   It is the first online professional certificate offering of its kind through the Continuing Education department, a Sacramento Bee article stated.               Though critics argue that extending the world of academia online diminishes the quality of education, recent research suggests that online learning may actually be just as effective.      According to a 2009 evaluation from the U.S. Department of Education, the majority of faculty who have taught or helped develop an online course have found that learning outcomes are as good or better than traditional, face-to-face learning.   Additionally, the evaluation stated that over 70 percent of public universities reported that online learning was critical to the long-term interests of the school.   Some statistics seem to indicate that more and more students may be jumping on the online learning bandwagon.   According to research by the Sloan Consortium, an organization trying to elevate the status of online learning, the total online student enrollment jumped to 18.1 million in 2008, a 1.5 million increase from 2002 data.   In a 2008 survey sampled at 69 universities scattered across the country, one-third of the faculty indicated that they had taught an online course.          Chaulk said that the certificate program is an entirely different educational model, and students investing in on-campus education should not feel cheated.     “It’s apples and oranges,” said Chaulk, adding that on-campus students are enjoying the whole “college experience,” which is something cyberspace has yet to provide.     Matt Sayre, who works in program development in the Continuing Education office, said he thought the major misconception surrounding online learning is that students cannot engage in a highly interactive way.               “It’s hard to say that the platform itself is a limiting factor,” he said. “I think that the online platform might enable a higher level of interaction than on-campus options.