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California State University, Online, coming soon

California State UniversityCalifornia State University will launch a systemwide online university in 2013 that could eventually expand enrollment by 250,000 students. About 427,000 students are enrolled at Cal State’s 23 campuses. Some students already take courses online or partially online through individual universities.

The new system would provide a common site for those courses as well as additional programs officials plan to offer.

“This is just another way to provide access,” said Cal State spokeswoman Claudia Keith. “It’s another avenue for somebody to earn their degree.”

Participation by individual campuses will be voluntary. Keith said the university has 50 existing online programs. Pearson, a New Jersey-based educational software company, will provide the outreach and infrastructure and work to expand the university offerings, she said.

The company, which did not respond to an interview request, will begin testing the program soon and is expected to take it live early next year. Recent cutbacks to California’s state-funded universities have reduced class offerings and student enrollment. Keith said the online system is timely in that it will allow more students to take university courses.

“The advantage is, we’ll have more programs offered because we’ll have a centralized platform,” she said. Jim Monaghan is vice president for academic technology and distributed learning at the San Bernardino campus.

He said it may be more difficult for the few Cal State schools on the quarter system, such as San Bernardino, to coordinate with what he anticipates will be a semester-based system. Monaghan said of the 17,000 students enrolled at Cal State San Bernardino, between 700 and 800 are taking online courses. He expects an upcoming marketing push to boost that number.

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