Business Matters

Online Virginia Network Authority to oversee enhanced educational opportunities

The Online Virginia Network board met for the first time July 14 and has set the stage for the program that is expected boost the state’s economy by making it easier for more Virginians to complete the college work necessary for their degrees.

The Online Virginia Network is a state-supported consortium of online classes designed to create the educational opportunities needed so the state’s nontraditional students and adult learners can complete their degrees. Mason and Old Dominion University are serving as the founding partners offering convenient one-stop shopping for scheduling, registering, advising and course work. Students inquiring about specific degrees will be directly linked to distance education programs available at Mason or ODU.

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker-designee Kirk Cox was elected chair of the new Online Virginia Network Authority, which will oversee the bridging of programs from both Mason and ODU to one convenient location to make things more convenient for busy adult learners hoping to complete their bachelor’s degrees online.

“Almost one million Virginians started a college degree, but never finished,” Cox said in a statement. “Online Virginia Network will help working adults, nontraditional students and our military servicemembers achieve their education goals by giving them flexible access to courses without sacrificing quality of faculty, programs or support.”

Others on the network’s 15-member board include Mason president Ángel Cabrera, Mason Board of Visitors member James W. Hazel and ODU president John R. Broderick. Cabrera and Broderick have designated Michelle Marks, Mason’s vice president for academic innovation and new ventures, and Ellen Neufeldt, ODU’s vice president for student engagement and enrollment services, to represent their respective schools as the presidents’ designees.

An estimated 64 percent of Virginia’s jobs will require some form of post-secondary education by 2018, according to state figures. ODU and Mason have a long history of serving diverse and nontraditional populations, including military-affiliated students. The two public universities are strategically located in Virginia to serve military bases and civilian federal employees and have extensive experience working with these populations.

“I think the OVN initiative is a way to combine the best resources across Virginia to support that population,” Marks said during her presentation. “We want to put programs in front of them that are tied to the labor force and growth of the economy here in Virginia.”

The network officially launched in spring 2017 and will offer 37 different degree programs this fall. It also offers a cost calculator that will allow students estimate the costs of their degree.

Its board will meet again on the Mason Fairfax Campus late this fall to review its progress and to outline goals for next year.