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U North Carolina Chapel Hill Launches Online Master of Public Admin Degree

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be launching a new master's degree in public administration (MPA) in its School of Government that's fully online. As it has done with its online master's degree in business, the university will be working with 2tor, a company that focuses on developing and managing top-tier online-only academic programs for higher education customers. MPA@UNC, as the program is called, will admit its first cohort of students this fall and will begin classes in January 2013.

MPA@UNC will follow the same curriculum as the residential program, and students will have to meet the same admissions criteria. They'll also be required to participate in a hands-on professional work experience that can be fulfilled through an existing role or internship in their local community. 2tor will work with current faculty members to design the online components and those same instructors will teach the courses.

To accommodate students who live in different time zones, the courses will include both self-paced material and live sessions held at pre-arranged times. In live sessions, faculty and students will be able to see and hear each other as they discuss course topics, meet in student study groups, and hold face-to-face meetings during office hours. An interactive social technology platform will enable students to chat, study, and join communities with fellow classmates and professors.

MPA@UNC will feature both self-paced material and live sessions.

To preserve the "culture" experienced by residential MPA students, according to the Web site, the new program promises to ensure "a high degree of interaction as part of each course," and provide multiple opportunities for students to work together outside of class in study groups, clubs, discussion groups, and social events "that support the cohort experience."

"The MPA program attracts applicants with a desire to serve and a potential for leadership," said Program Director William Rivenbark. "Graduates of our program attain leadership positions in every level of government and in organizations that support the public interest. We typically admit about 30 high-performing students per year into the on-campus program, but this online option will enable us to extend the reach of our program and provide many more highly qualified students with the opportunity to earn an MPA from a top-ranked university."

If this latest agreement is similar to previous contracts, 2tor will handle aspects of the program such as student recruiting, technology development, funding, field placement, and 24-hour student and faculty support. The university will manage admissions and curriculum development. 2tor, a for-profit entity, was named this year by Fast Company as one of the world's most innovative companies in education.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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