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UMass To Go Online in China

This article is more than 12 years old.

The University of Massachusetts is strengthening its ties to China by signing an agreement making UMass' online courses available in China, a move officials hope could lead to their approval by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The agreement signed in Beijing on Monday between UMass, the China Continuing Education Association and the CerEdu Corp. calls for UMassOnline to make 40 courses, four certificate programs and one master's degree program drawn from all five of the system's campuses available in China within a year.

UMass officials say if the ministry approves the program, it would be the first operated by a foreign institution in which classes are taken exclusively online sanctioned in China. Some other U.S. institutions have approved programs that include classroom instruction and online elements.

"UMass has forged extensive ties with partners in China ... and those academic and research connections will pay many dividends for our students and for the citizens of the commonwealth in the years to come,'' UMass President Jack Wilson said.

UMass has had an academic and research partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing since 2006. The China Continuing Education Association is a national academic society based at Tsinghua University. CerEdu is an online education company.

"A significant aspect of the ... partnership is working toward the offering of the first online degree programs from a foreign institution that will garner the recognition of the Ministry of Education,'' David Gray, CEO of UMassOnline, said in a statement posted online. "During the early years of this partnership, UMassOnline will be granted exclusivity among U.S. institutions in developing and offering approved online programs.''

Other American universities have Chinese students enrolled in online-only courses and degree programs that are not recognized by Chinese officials, said Frank Mayadas, program director at the nonprofit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

He said some schools offer hybrid programs in China, in which some classes are online and some are face-to-face.

Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. has been offering online graduate courses to Chinese students since 2003, said Robert Zotti, the school's director of online learning. One-third of the classes are online, one-third are taught by Stevens faculty in China, and one-third are taught by Chinese faculty, he said. The program has the approval of the Education Ministry, he said.

UMassOnline, the university's distance learning program, was founded in 2001 and currently has nearly 33,000 students. Online courses are taught by the same faculty who teach on campus.

Online learning is a growing segment of the higher education market. Almost 3.5 million students took at least one online course during the fall 2006 term, a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Sloan Consortium, an online education organization.

This program aired on April 1, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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