New Virginia web portal streamlines online college course offerings

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — About a million people in Virginia have started a college degree but haven’t completed it.

A new state program aims to make going back to school easier for them. It’s called the Online Virginia Network (OVN).

Speaker-designee Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) serves as chair. He calls it an innovative and flexible program.

He said working moms, military and non-traditional students are good candidates.

“We’ll give you counseling, we’ll help you get started again [and] a lot of times give you credit for things you’ve already done,” he said.

Online classes from Old Dominion University and George Mason University are filtered into one web portal. Students can do one-stop shopping for scheduling, registering, advising and coursework.

“The great thing about ODU and George Mason, they have really quality programs. Their graduation rate on online is much higher than the national average, so we’re starting with a really good model,” said Cox. “We’re really going to hopefully have a sea change as far as the way we look at higher ed. It’s just got to be different.”

Cox said traditional class schedules don’t always work for working adults, non-traditional students or military members trying to achieve their education goals.

“In the private sector, obviously a retailer’s going to try to find things that match what you need and what you want,” said Cox. “This is sort of an attempt to do some customer service to our constituents. Not always have the model fit the college — have the model fit the person that’s coming.”

Cox said it comes down to jobs.

By 2018, 64 percent of jobs in the commonwealth will require some form of post-secondary education.

This fall, OVN will kick off with about 225 students in its first class. Over the next five years, that number is projected to grow to about 7,500 total.

“That’s bigger than, if you think about it, some of our universities,” said Cox.

In the future, OVN would like to include community college and other state university course offerings in the portal.

On the website, there is a cost calculator that helps potential students estimate how much it would cost to complete their degree.

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