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Online programs at UTPB receive top ranking - Odessa American: UTPB

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Online programs at UTPB receive top ranking

UTPB to expand online program

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Posted: Friday, June 21, 2013 7:00 pm

U.S. News and World Report named the University of Texas of the Permian Basin 46th in the nation and first among Texas public universities for online bachelor’s programs.

“To be number one in Texas is pretty darn good,” UTPB President David Watts said.  “This is the best ranking we’ve ever accomplished.”

More than 30 percent of courses completed at UTPB are done online, he said.

“West Texas is a unique environment,” he said. “It’s a long driving distance to almost anywhere, so this is a natural environment for online course work to be developed.”

What sets the UTPB online program apart from other universities is its interactive approach, utilizing email, recorded videos and Skype, he said.

“The faculty is really responsive to students,” Watts said. “If you’re in a massive, online course, there is no interaction between the faculty and students. It’s all handled by a machine, but in a UTPB course the faculty interacts with the students using a variety of technology. There are interactive discussions with individual students as well as group discussions.”

Lanita Akins teaches American history courses online and said she has gotten to know some students better online than in a classroom because of the one-on-one discussions.

“I love it,” Akins said. “It’s really fun and they really understand what’s going on. I do a voice recording for each module telling them what’s important and to make sure they understand everything.”

UTPB Professor Steve Aicinena teaches online courses in sociology and administration of athletics.

“It provides students educational opportunities they may not have otherwise,” Aicinena said. “I have a student in Maine and I’ve had students from Germany and all over the Unites States.”

UTPB began its online course program in the 1990s, but it really took off about five years ago when it become more interactive, Watts said.

The online program is accelerated, with new classes every eight weeks, allowing students to complete a graduate degree in less than a year, he said.

There are currently 14 online programs offered, seven undergraduate and seven graduate programs, but Watts said they are working to expand the program to offer online programs in other areas, including math. 

UTPB communications senior Jared Wilson is taking a communication course and American Literature course online.

“The online courses are really convenient,” Wilson said. “It’s really flexible and you can log in from anywhere so you can still go on vacation with your family and do all those things.”

UTPB business administration junior Ben Clark said he prefers taking courses in class but enjoys the accelerated pace of the online courses.

 “It’s pretty helpful,” Clark said. “If you email your teacher they generally get back to you quickly. If you meet with them during office hours, that’s helpful and sometimes they give phone numbers.”

 “In Odessa, we have the luxury of being able to drive a few blocks to UTPB,” Watts said. “For students in other West Texas communities, it’s more difficult to drive here on a regular basis. Online offerings make it possible for students throughout Texas to be able to pursue an education and earn a degree.”

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