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Razorbacks at Home: University of Arkansas Online Programs


While online education isn’t a new invention, the possibilities it offers became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Arkansas has nearly 30 years of history offering online education to students. Post-pandemic, the university’s online programs are still growing and providing opportunities to study at the University of Arkansas from home, whether home is Arkansas or another place around the world.

Jose Gonzalez of Green Forest shows one of his favorite study spots at his home in Green Forest. Gonzalez earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in general business in spring 2023. He received a framed diploma for the degree delivered online as part of a stop on June 26 on the Razorbug Diploma Tour.

Patty Milner is the assistant vice provost of Student Outreach and Innovation of the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas. The Global Campus works with different academic departments across campus to bring high-quality courses to online students. Milner says that while online courses aren’t new at the university, they began to see a dramatic increase in interest in 2012. While the U of A had previously focused on business courses, as well as online certifications for teachers and nurses, they began adding new online programs each year. Currently, the university has around 70 online programs encompassing Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees, certificates and licensures for working professionals, and even five doctoral programs.

“The vast majority of these programs are 100% online,” Milner says. “A few graduate programs meet one weekend a month in person. These tend to be our programs in business and education, where physically being able to meet is a benefit.”

Hattie Shelton of Fayetteville is pictured in Japan during a trip as part of the hybrid Executive Master of Business Administration degree program. Students take coursework primarily online, with one class on campus each month. They are also required to take part in a two-week Global Immersion trip. Shelton is also a 2023-2024 Manning scholar.

These online programs offer opportunities to potential students who already hold jobs and have families and who may not be able to attend the University of Arkansas physically. “Our average student is 35 and is a mid-career working adult. Many work full-time and choose to study in a part-time program. They’re the professionals you see every day, and they have an ambition to earn a degree and further their career. Providing access to education without walking away from jobs is important,” Milner says.

Most of those enrolled in the online program are from Arkansas, but the program does have students enrolled from other states and even other countries. One of the benefits of being an online student is that students receive in-state tuition. Any student who enrolls as an online student at the university is also eligible to receive financial assistance, just like any student attending the campus physically. In fact, Milner recommends filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as you think you’re interested in pursuing an online degree to see what options are available. Online students can also apply for the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship, which the Global Campus awards each year. The scholarship is given only to online students and there is a preference for students who are first-generation college degree seekers or who are residents of Arkansas.

Sydney McFarland hugs her baby, Denver, during a celebration June 27 on the Razorbug Diploma Tour in front of Yellville-Summit High School, from which McFarland graduated. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in general business delivered online last spring.

“We have a great group of folks who are online student liaisons who help interested people decide on the best program for them. Reach out to us. We’re real people behind the online chat, phone, or email,” Milner says. These student liaisons can answer any questions about the online programs, financial questions, and how to enroll. Many of the degrees have similarities, and student liaisons can explain the differences and discern which degree fits that student’s needs. They can even assist students in finding the right programs if the University of Arkansas doesn’t offer the program an interested student is looking for.

The degrees and programs offered online have varied over the years. The Master of Science in Operations Management has been offered for more than 20 years online and continues to be popular. It is designed for those who want a graduate degree in leadership and operations management, in particular, the management of physical things. This degree is taught out of the Industrial Engineering department at the university. “It is not an engineering degree,” Milner says, “but the classes bring that perspective of efficiency and creating value in management.”

Bob Korpella is joined June 27 by his family, former state Rep. Jack Fortner of Yellville, far left, and Mandel Samuels, far right, a teaching assistant professor in the Human Resource Development program, to celebrate his graduation last spring. Korpella, of Mountain Home, earned a Master of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Department delivered online. A ceremony on the Razorbug Diploma Tour took place at the Korpella family home under construction.

Other popular degrees and licensures are directed at professional communities like teaching and nursing. Many of the education certificates specifically fulfill Arkansas teaching requirements, as do the nursing courses. Others are programs that allow anyone from anywhere to earn their degrees online. Some of the most popular degrees currently are all within the business program.

Online students at the University of Arkansas are University of Arkansas students as much as those studying on campus. Milner is adamant about this. “For many people, earning that degree from the U of A is important to them. When we’re out representing the university, folks in the online program come up to us and talk about being in the program.” One way Milner and the Global Campus have found to reward online graduates is through the Razorbug Diploma Tour.

Anginay Jones, third from right, gathers with her parents, sisters, niece, and her puppy, Dash, at the family home in Earle after Jones was presented a framed diploma for her Master of Science in Operations Management delivered online.

Each summer, the Razorbug, a unique and highly recognizable vehicle, travels the state to deliver framed diplomas to some of the online program’s graduates. A faculty member from the graduate program rides along to present the degree. “It’s exciting to see students in their context, their work, their family, and the support system they’ve had to help them study. Not everyone has the ability to come walk in our graduation ceremony.” The Razorbug is one way to mark students’ achievements.

Milner encourages anyone interested in pursuing an online program to visit the U of A Online website and reach out through the Razorbot feature or connect with a student liaison. “Our biggest message is we are here to support students in finding what’s right for them.”

For many Arkansans and other prospective students, an online degree or certificate program from the University of Arkansas could be the right next step for their future.

Header Photo: Patty Milner, right, assistant vice provost for student outreach and innovation, poses with Julianna Smith outside the high school gymnasium in Evening Shade. Smith earned a Master of Science in Nursing delivered online.

All photos are courtesy of the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and used with permission.

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Kimberly S. Mitchell loves journeys, real or imagined. She has hiked the Inca Trail, walked into Panama on a rickety wooden bridge and once missed the last train of the night in Paris and walked several miles home (with friends). She believes magic can be found in life and books, loves to watch the stars appear, and still dreams of backpacking the world. Now she writes adventures to send her characters on journeys, too. Pen & Quin: International Agents of Intrigue - The Mystery of the Painted Book is her debut novel. Find out more at KSMitchell.com.

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