UNK offers first year of college online

A new program called O.N.E. Loper allows freshmen and first-time students at UNK to take their entire first year of general studies courses online and remotely. (Photo by Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications)
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) Students looking to start their university experience but who can’t attend in person are offered a new program this fall at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

O.N.E. Loper (Online Networking Experience) is an academic and student-support experience designed as a remote, full-time first semester to respond to needs of students and their families who for several reasons may choose to begin their college experience from home. Students in O.N.E. Loper will take a common set of general studies courses taught by expert online faculty instructors, be paired with student mentors and share special supportive experiences that will result in completing 12-15 credit hours and a start to their bachelor’s degree.

The program meets unique needs presented from directed health measures and other challenges in the wake of the novel coronavirus – and positions UNK, as a leader in online education, to solve these challenges by providing access where students are.

“While some students’ first semester may not be what they had envisioned because of COVID-19, this program gives them a path to start life as a Loper, online at UNK,” said program director Matthew R. Bice, associate dean of graduate studies and research. “We want students to know that UNK is here to support them in their goal to work toward a degree by providing a quality educational experience that starts them on the road to success.”

Bice said demand for the program comes from some students’ desire to continue social-distancing in the fall because of needed health-protection measures and responsibility to continue self-isolation, or a desire to stay home to attend to family, work or other responsibilities – combined with affordability and convenience.

Students who attend UNK entirely online forego costs of campus housing and meals. And, some may desire learning and engaging with their coursework at their convenience and with newfound confidence in their ability to learn and manage their time in an online environment.
Students will choose four or five general studies classes that include a core required course and electives, from a specially designed academic program that will fulfill their general studies requirements. Students will be placed in cohorts or groups that serve as supportive learning communities, guided by faculty and student mentors.

The core courses are first-year portal courses that focus on popular academic topics: History of Warfare, Life Studies (Reading and Writing Autobiography), Cyber Crime, and Culture and Ethnic Identity. The general studies electives let students get the foundational knowledge to start their curriculum requirements in their majors.

“This program affords choice for students in selection of a slate of courses for the fall 2020 semester,” said Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Charlie Bicak. “We recognize the importance of options and the level of certainty that comes with making determinations that are most appropriate for each individual.”
Students will be supported through numerous remote engagement and academic and student success services presented in a resource website called UNKonnection.

“The program is carefully developed to ensure that students are immersed in the campus community and academic services and organizations, student recreation, student services and supports,” Bice said. “Students can be involved and engaged with departments completely online, while networking with their peers and UNK faculty and staff. These connections will empower students to experience, and succeed, in everything UNK offers.”
“UNK is well positioned to offer this program completely online,” said Dean of Graduate Studies Mark Ellis. “Building upon the Graduate Studies online model of instruction and student engagement, O.N.E. Loper will offer freshmen quality online courses and access to professional development opportunities and engagement.”

Alyssa Wyant, interim director of eCampus, said UNK’s leadership in online education is well-known, with online programs continuing to expand.
“We now offer more than 50 online programs and 500-plus courses. We’ve been able to take that expertise, partner with experienced faculty, and offer a similar on-campus experience entirely online for those students who may be homebound due to COVID-19,” Wyant said.

UNK student regent and student body president Max Beal was part of an advisory group to provide student input.

“Now more than ever, it is vital that the university is swift, nimble and thoughtful in its approach to furthering education, and the O.N.E. Loper program aims to do just that,” Beal said. “O.N.E. Loper will help to mitigate the anxiety of incoming freshmen, to provide important resources for current students, and further reinforce the university's core mission of serving students. I am very excited for what this program has in store.”

To explore the program or to sign up, students should visit unk.edu/oneloper, and fill the online information. For questions, contact Bice at bicemr@unk.edu, or, contact your UNK admissions counselor or UNK Admissions at admissions@unk.edu or 308-865-8526. New Student Enrollment begins May 27 and financial aid options are still available.

Questions and Answers about UNK O.N.E. Loper

What is O.N.E. Loper?
O.N.E. Loper stands for Online Networking Experience. O.N.E. Loper is an academic program specially developed for first-year students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This curriculum-based program allows students to complete an entire semester of general studies courses online to stay on track for graduation and career endeavors. The program outline accommodates students to take 12-15 credit hours of courses that will contribute to attaining their degree.

What are the advantages to this program?
UNK students who are looking for another option to get a high-quality post-secondary educational experience and earn university credits toward their bachelor’s degree now have more options and greater ability to complete an entire semester or even full academic year “remotely.” Remote learning may be desirable now because of several factors, primarily prompted by the global pandemic. These include:
• Convenience – the ability to engage with material and to study when you want to. Depending on how many courses you take, there is time for work and family obligations.
• Continuing concerns for health. Some people may be unable to risk contact with a virus or need to isolate for their health and safety – or may prefer to continue to isolate.
• A continuing desire to stay home -- including ties to job, family, and your other responsibilities.
• Affordability. Cost may be an increased factor in your university decision due to job loss, or the harsh economy and economic uncertainty. With this option, Housing and Food costs are not part of your university bill.
• Many more students now have experience and confidence in succeeding in a remote-learning environment
Tradeoffs include missed opportunity to live on campus to benefit 24/7 from the supports of staff, faculty and peers and the experiences of engaging with the array of diverse people and ideas.

How do I sign up?
Start by going to the unk.edu/oneloper website and fill the online form at the button called “Learn more about O.N.E. Loper”.

What does it cost?
Students in O.N.E. Loper program will be enrolled in eCampus courses and be charged the tuition and fees associated with eCampus rates. The Financial Aid Office has an online cost calculator to help you estimate your costs: https://www.unk.edu/offices/student_accounts/tuition/undergraduate-semester-cost-estimate.php

Is the registration process the same as other student enrollment?
Students in O.N.E. Loper must be admitted to UNK through Undergraduate Admissions. They will participate in New Student Enrollment and take part in the same NSE activities as other students. The difference is the process of enrolling in specific courses designated for the program.

If I’m already admitted and I select this option, do I need to cancel my housing contract and meal plan?
Once registered as a O.N.E. Loper, your housing requirement will be flagged and an individual from UNK staff will work with you to get you through the release of these requirements.

Can I be part of O.N.E. Loper if I live on campus?
O.N.E. Loper is specifically designed for online/remote coursework, and the classes saved for those students. If you want to live on campus, an Admissions Counselor will assist you if you need help in getting your Housing contract and meal plan selected, and get you connected to New Student Enrollment.

How does this affect my financial aid?
Because your estimated cost of attendance may change, along with your choice to accept specific awards and aid, you should contact the Office of Financial Aid to update your information.

What classes do I take? Are they all online?
All classes for students participating in O.N.E. Loper are online. Curriculum includes 1 required core course and 3-4 approved electives. Students are required to take the identified core course but can choose their electives from the approved online general studies courses. The core courses identified are History of Warfare, Life Studies (Reading and Writing Autobiography), Cyber Crime, and Culture and Ethnic Identity.

Is there a minimum number of classes I need to take?
Students participating in O.N.E. Loper take a minimum of 12 hours (4 classes) and maximum of 15 credit hours (5 classes).

Do the college credits I have earned already transfer?
Yes, if you have previous credits, the Registrar’s Office will assist in determining what credit hours transfer to UNK.

What kind of activities do O.N.E. Loper students participate in?
O.N.E. Loper students have the opportunity to participate in many campus-based activities, understanding some activities may not have the capability to be online.

Am I required to be part of the activities?
Students in the O.N.E. Loper program are not required to be part of the activities. Activities are provided to create a sense of community among students.

Can I come to activities on campus?
Yes, students are always welcome to regular activities on UNK campus.

Can I join a sorority or fraternity, and can I participate in student organizations?
Each sorority and fraternity have their own rules and regulations, and each student organization has their own accommodation plans for remote student engagement. You can access organization leader contact information and identify opportunities at the UNKonnection resource web page.

What if the student organization I want to participate in doesn’t offer remote-connection opportunities?
During the transition of this difficult time, each organization is in the process of making accommodation plans. Organization leaders will be able to provide you with up-to-date, specific information.

I need accommodations because of a disability. How do I get my accommodations met?
Contact for ADA accommodations is Lisa Mendoza Klingelhoefer, 308-865-8404; mendozalm2@unk.edu. Students working with Disability Services for Students and have accommodation plans will continue to work with your contact in this office.

What equipment do I need?
Most courses are delivered through Canvas, UNK’s learning management system. Depending on how the course is designed and offered, you may be utilizing Zoom. Additional engagement opportunities may be conducted via “livestream” and on social networks (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Instagram), phone, text, chat, or other platforms or technology. Students equipped with a computer and internet, cell phone, and the ability to utilize the network platforms should have everything they need.

UNK has offered online courses for many years. What is new?
O.N.E. Loper is an organized set of online courses in a structured format designed for first-year students allowing them to complete an entire semester online during the Fall 2020 semester, specifically identifying the additional supports that first-year online students need, like mentors, opportunities for additional online engagement and support, and supportive and dynamic faculty.

Can I take one or a few classes online as a freshman?
Yes. There currently are 11 undergraduate UNK programs available through eCampus and numerous undergraduate courses to select from. Participating in O.N.E. Loper would work to your advantage because these specific courses and faculty, and this curriculum, is designed as a first semester. The support of peers, mentors and the faculty working with you and your “cohort” will increase your opportunities and enhance your success.

Read the original version of this article at www.ksnblocal4.com.