CHAPEL HILL – More online education and degree programs are going to be offered by UNC-Chapel Hill over the next several years, the university announced Tuesday.

In the times of COVID-19 when most universities, including UNC, have had to limit on-campus classes due to social distancing requirements, the move to remote learning has accelerated.

However, a spokesperson for UNC, told WRAL TechWire that “This expansion was discussed and in the planning phase prior to the pandemic.”

UNC has decided to expand its online efforts through a partnership with 2U, an education technology firm.

Of the new agreement, Vice Provost for Digital and Lifelong Learning Todd Nicolet pointed out:

“Carolina has a long-standing commitment to providing digital access to a world-class education. The expanded agreement standardizes how the University offers online graduate degrees and a variety of professional development programs. This digital strategy enables the University to continue to be a leader in making higher education accessible to lifelong learners throughout their careers.”

A recent report in Forbes noted that demand for online education was growing.

“Even before the pandemic, Research and Markets forecasts the online education market as $350 Billion by 2025, so the numbers might be updated after analyzing the growth impacts of COVID-19 on the online learning market,” Forbes noted.

Initial degree programs will launch over the “next few years,” 2U noted.

UNC and 2U said they already have worked together to offer programs at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, the Gillings School of Public Health and the UNC School of Government along with the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education.

Programs to be offered include:

  • Online graduate degrees
  • Certificate, and professional development programs

“Carolina has a long history of working with 2U to create best-in-class graduate degree and boot camp programs,” UNC Chapel Hill Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin said in the announcement. “This University-wide partnership will accelerate our ambitious digital learning strategy, enabling us to leverage 2U’s expertise in developing and delivering world-class education programs online.”

UNC will keep “complete control over the core academic and governance functions (including admissions) in its online degree programs, as it does in its traditional campus-based program,” the announcement noted.

“Carolina will work with 2U to design and build its new online model, enhance the institution’s internal capacity to create digital education programs, and advance digital education research more broadly through the creation of the University’s Digital Education Research Hub,” 2U added.