The Extended Degree Program (EDP) was a distance education program of considerable importance to the College from the late 1970’s until 2000 when the program was discontinued.
In 1976 the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved the creation of Extended Degree Programs at four UW campuses. The EDP concept was initially recommended by the Kellett Commission as a component of the “Wisconsin Idea”, which was intended to provide virtually all Wisconsin citizens access to university services and programs. The underlying assumption of the ambitious “Wisconsin Idea” is that “the boundaries of the state university system are the boundaries of the state”.
UW-Green Bay began offering a program leading to a general college degree; UW- Superior offered a program leading to a degree in an “individualized major”; UW- Platteville offered a degree program in Business; and UW-River Falls offered a program in Broad Area Agriculture. Of the four statewide programs, the River Falls EDP was consistently the smallest in terms of student enrollment.
The EDP at River Falls was initiated in 1978 with external funding from a three-year grant from the Kellogg Foundation. Assistant Dean Roger Swanson was the lead person in obtaining the grant and in launching the program. UWRF alumna, Anne Johnson, was the program’s first Director. She was assisted in the EDP office by a consultant, Ron Klietsch, and later by Alice Murphy. For the first ten years the EDP was a degree program in Broad Area Agriculture. A second option in Agricultural Business was initiated in 1988.
The objective of the program was to provide access to an agricultural degree program for home bound individuals who were unable to attend regularly scheduled classes on a university campus. As such the program, which had requirements identical to the on-campus degree programs, was conducted in an asynchronous, self-paced mode to meet the unique needs of the students enrolled. Each student enrolled under an individualized contract requiring completion of a selected number of courses during each year of enrollment.
The first three years of the program were developmental. Existing courses in the agricultural sciences were reworked into a competency-based format by the teaching faculty. This involved re-writing traditional lecture material and the development and acquisition of audio-visual materials. With assistance from a skilled consultant, methods for course competency assessment were developed, and procedures were implemented for assessment of experiential learning, including the evaluation and translation of professional and life experiences into university credit. Approximately 30 faculty members were involved in the program, including two from the College of Arts and Sciences (Ed Peterson and Margaret Odegard) who were responsible for the university required senior capstone courses.
The program was a quite popular with enrollment peaking at 130 students in 1987-88. Many of the students in the program were not actually seeking degrees, but were taking courses for professional advancement or simply out of personal interest. As such the number of students who actually obtained degrees was not large. By 1992 there were only 12 graduates.
Katrina Larsen assumed leadership of the program in 1987 and continued as Program Director until its closure in 2000. The program was terminated as a result of relatively low student enrollment and campus budget restrictions in 2000.