Kentucky opens virtual university

The Kentucky Commonwealth Virtual University, a consortium of the state's public and private colleges and universities, has created a one-stop World Wide Web site that provides access to all the enrollment and student services needed to get a college degree online.

The virtual university (www.kcvu.org) opened last week and expected about 50 students to enroll. Instead, it attracted more than 200, said Mary Beth Sussman, chief executive officer of KCVU.

KCVU will begin a pilot in September with 22 participating schools, offering certified degrees in nine areas, including network engineering and library science, communication disorders and rehabilitation counseling. All 59 of Kentucky's postsecondary institutions should be part of the program within the first year, Sussman said.

"We're trying to build a powerful knowledge work force for attracting and retaining business in Kentucky," she said. "To begin with, this program will the state's work-force development needs."

KCVU students can do everything online that traditionally enrolled students do on campus, from course selection and enrollment to paying tuition bills. Students also can register simultaneously at four or five schools and take courses from several different institutions in the same semester.

Eduprise.com, Research Triangle Park, N.C., is supplying the software tools and hosting environment for the KCVU. It is the company's first statewide contract, which is valued at more than $500,000.

Eduprise also will provide technology experts for faculty training at each institution to develop and maintain courses. "We're working with all Kentucky campuses to pull together a meaningful program that will be available online," said William Graves, founder and chairman of the board at Eduprise.

"The key concept is that this program is 'student-centric,' not 'institution-centric,' " Graves said. "KCVU is designed to make it easy for students to find opportunity and then to take advantage of that opportunity and succeed."

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