All roads lead to home
A new distance learning program at the University offers a promising alternative to traditional higher education
The PRODUCED program, which began in 2006 through the Engineering School and the Virginia Community College System, enables students from across the state to attend University classes from their work or at home, and at a lower price than their peers. The first class of PRODUCED students will finally graduate this May, and this is something to celebrate.
PRODUCED originated in the Engineering School. This was a good fit, as engineers and PRODUCED both aim to use technology to better society.
The program operates on a multi-step framework. After two years of community college, students in PRODUCED enroll in University courses. With telecommunications technology they participate in class, but sometimes have to trek to Charlottesville for the sake of a lab.
But PRODUCED doesn't just benefit students at home; it also assists them in the workplace. The program creates relationships between the Engineering School and engineering companies. PRODUCED students often work part-time alongside their classes. These students transfer knowledge from the classroom to the workplace, and vice-versa. Moreover, the nuclear power company AREVA has paid for several prospective employees' PRODUCED education.
Companies benefit by receiving workers with relevant backgrounds. Engineering projects demand localized answers, and a company in the field might prefer employees who know both the geographic and academic areas they work in.
The results have so far been positive. James Groves, the director of PRODUCED and an assistant dean of the Engineering School, said students in the program have the same GPAs as on-Grounds students on average, according to UVaToday. Twenty-eight students are currently enrolled in the program, and the program looks likely to expand. Recently, PRODUCED added a study abroad component in which enrolling students actually travel.
As PRODUCED reaches out to students across the state, it should serve students closer to its home at the University. The Engineering School has cast the foundations for a program which could help other schools on Grounds. Even outside the realm of PRODUCED, similar initiatives are starting. English Prof. Michael Levenson will teach a seminar on Virginia Woolf this fall in which students in Delhi will join students here in the discussion of her books online. The lesson here is that technology can assist students of all backgrounds, and so can the humanities. On all fronts, the University is right to support such agendas.