On Sept. 1, I became the new president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida — ICUF — which is a statewide association of 30 independent nonprofit colleges and universities serving more than 156,000 students on 160 Florida campus sites.
Many years ago I graduated from an ICUF institution — Rollins College in Winter Park — and then from FSU College of Law.
One thing I did not have back in the ‘80s was the internet. For centuries, higher education required a classroom and an instructor. If students didn’t have a campus nearby, they could not pursue higher education. The internet has changed all that.
Today, thousands of Florida students are earning their degrees using distance learning. Increasingly, homes, churches, libraries and your local Starbucks are higher education sites.
This new design has three elements: 1. Colleges and universities adapt their classroom courses for distance learning; 2. The internet is used to recruit, enroll and deliver degree courses to students; and 3. Students use a computer to attend digital classes.
Earning a degree no longer requires sitting in a campus classroom. More than 20 Florida independent colleges and universities now offer more than 600 fully online distance learning programs, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral degrees. Students can take courses from anywhere in the world at the web address icuf.org/distance.
A number of years ago, Saint Leo University adopted a distance learning outreach strategy and is now one of Florida’s largest independent universities. Other increasingly innovative and customized distance learning programs are emerging, too.
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers digital dual enrollment courses at more than 50 high schools.
- Lynn University, working with Apple, has built a fully mobile/tablet-based teaching and learning ecosystem for all its undergraduate students.
- Ringling College of Art & Design has enriched its fine arts curriculum with computerization and graphic design degrees.
- Southeastern University has launched partnerships with more than 150 churches nationwide to deliver distance-learning degrees and to recruit campus students.
Today, college and university distance learning is available for all Floridians who have access to a computer and the internet.
High school students can begin earning their degrees while in high school. Students studying on campus can earn distance learning credits during the summer from home. Students who can’t leave their community and relocate to a campus can earn their degree online in their community. Working adults can earn their degrees after work or on weekends. Today, distance learning can work for all.
And where is distance learning going in the future? Into to space and back into every Florida home!
Near the Kennedy Space Center, Amazon is constructing a manufacturing complex to build rockets and communication satellites. In the not-too-distant future, Florida-built technology and Florida-launched satellites will likely deliver Florida degree programs to every screen in the state. Someday, every Floridian will be able to build a brighter Florida future for themselves and their families through distance learning. Today, every motivated student can begin.