Dixie State College of Utah was established in 1911 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In the years since its inception as the “St George Stake Academy”, it has gone through four name changes, lost and regained the support of the church, and has grown from 42 to around 7,000 students attending. One of three colleges in St. George, Utah, they offer 4 year bachelor degrees, as well as associate’s degrees, one year certificates, and a several-month certificate with 26 different majors. Though the student retention and graduation rates are low (57% and 31% respectively), Dixie hopes to remedy that with a planned upgrade to the University of Utah-St George, meaning it will share resources with the major state school and have more access to funding through this.
One of the major selling points for Dixie isn’t so much its distance learning program, though many online opportunities are offered here, but their allowance for outside learners to access their information. Through Dixie State OpenCourseWare, undergrads and grad students the world over are allowed “open dissemination of educational materials, philosophy, and modes of thought, [that] will help lead to fundamental changes in the way colleges and universities utilize the Web as a vehicle for education”. The real differences between this and other web-based distance learning is that Dixie offers this free of charge to any student, anywhere in the world. However, they also do not offer college credit through their OCW program, meaning only to provide “course materials free and open to the world”, rather than keeping the info only for tuition paying, creditable students. Through this open course dissemination, knowledge is there for whomever would like to learn, free for any student looking to broaden their education (regardless of age) and give them the skills needed to allow continued growth in their chosen field.
Online courses are also offered at Dixie State, utilizing Blackboard to offer the same level of courses offered on campus, with a bit more allowance for time constraints. In fact, Dixie avers that “you will find the course content to be the same only delivered in a different manner”, making it the student’s responsibility to schedule time for online classes and maintain an awareness of deadlines. These classes count the same amount as those in-class would get and access to faculty is always readily available should there be questions (professors are assigned to online courses the same as they are to in-class ones).
Popular 4 year majors as Dixie include Nursing and Business and Associate’s degrees are offered in everything from Pre-Engineering to the Arts, all operating from semester based class schedules. Dixie is striving to go further in their mission of putting academics first, not only in their proposed upgrade to a Utah University, but also in their dedication to adding more baccalaureate majors in the near future, as well as expanding their online learning program to offer more access to web-based learning materials. Every student is given a Dmail account, which is a Dixie specific Google Gmail account meant to keep students in the loop and allow for easy email transactions between the school/faculty and students.
Dixie may have one of the lowest Utah graduation rates, but their commitment to providing education to learners everywhere shows that they are indeed heading in their right direction and will continue their “can-do” pioneering spirit, looking to help shape and progress education for all.