Northwestern University Distance Learning

Northwestern University is much too large for summary, but here we try. Founded in 1851 to “serve the Northwest Territory” (or the western Great Lakes States, from Ohio to Wisconsin), it was built on Chicago lakefront property and began teaching its class of 10 students in 1855.

There are now three campuses, one in Evanston (their largest, located in the suburbs of Chicago), a 25 acre downtown campus, and one in Doha… in Qatar (so you know staying connected will ensure some distance learning is available, and it is). Full time student enrollment, up since 1855, is currently around 16,000 men/women all told, with a pretty even split between graduate and undergraduate students. There are a dozen schools/colleges contained within Northwestern (three of which, their Law, Medical, and Business schools are regularly in the top 20 worldwide), with degrees from Bachelor to PhD, and all sorts of First Professional and Post-Masters certificates inbetween. Their 2500 full time faculty are more than the student population of most colleges, teaching programs in over 125 different undergraduate majors and another almost 150 graduate/professional areas.

As with everything about Northwestern, an all inclusive summary of distance learning opportunities is a lofty goal. However, at this time there are three degrees offered entirely online, all offered out of the School of Continuing Studies (the only school/college at Northwestern offering online degrees). Their first was a Master’s in Medical Informatics, giving training applicable across the board for health care professionals (nurses to medical engineers) with all the resources of being in the Chicago area accessible in the same way they would for traditional learners. A Master of Science in Predictive Analytics (for data-driven analysts in occupations from customer service to investment) is also available completely through online classes, as well as an MA in Public Policy and Administration (for those on the local government level in administrative or managerial areas). Fall 2011 will also see the creation of their fourth online Masters (in Computer Information Services), but that isn’t the limit to Northwestern’s online dedication.

There are literally too many online classes to name, across all academic divisions and levels. The Prosthetics-Orthotics allows a blend of both online (for materials, tests, and “development of your knowledge base”) and hands on, lab work (through on campus work, including a cadaver anatomy lab and taking orders/filling orders for prostheses/ortheses under faculty supervision). There are also online certificate programs, such as the one in Decision Making for Climate Change (in partner with the University of British Columbia), and opportunities to take summer courses while still going home for the summer (summer school on your own time).

Northwestern sees distance learning as “inevitable” and, as such a massive American university, knows that they are responsible for creating/maintaining that same level of excellence that their traditional programs are renowned for. Webinars, virtual information sessions, and even virtual graduations are still in the experimental stage, but are gaining solid footing beside things like library access and registration, and there’s even a 30 minute online video that takes you step by step how to use the Internet features of the university (from email, to payment, to taking web classes).

Too big to summarize entirely, Northwestern is almost its own city, offering study abroad, internship, research, experiential and distance learning, as well as a reputation that is nearly unmatched. Include their Division I athletics (they were co-founders of the Big 10) and big name alums (from Stephen Colbert to Rahm Emmanuel) and you have a college experience unmatched, whether on campus or online.

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