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Dec. 9, 2003

ULM Will Use Grant Funding From State Farm Companies Foundation for on line Course Development

The University of Louisiana at Monroe received a grant from the State Farm Companies Foundation to support the development of online courses in ULM's Insurance Studies Program in the College of Business Administration. The grant funds in the amount of $50,000 were presented to officials at ULM today at 10 a.m. in the media room on the 6th floor of the ULM Library.

"State Farm's partnership with ULM is vitally important, and we are grateful that it continues to grow. This grant to our insurance studies program will enhance a unique program, strengthen the university, and better our community," said ULM President James Cofer.

"With this grant from State Farm, we will be able to offer both credit and noncredit insurance instruction in an online format that will be more convenient for students. It will also allow insurance professionals access to instructional modules on select topics in insurance. We are excited about the future possibilities that it will provide for our insurance program here in the College of Business," said Kenneth Clow, Dean of the College of Business Administration at ULM.

The check was presented to Clow and President of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, James Cofer, by Jean Baird, Vice President of Operations at State Farm.

Baird said, "Supporting higher education is part of our strategic focus for grants and donations. At State Farm, we believe that improving educational opportunities directly impacts the quality of life in local communities now, and in the future. We see the enhancement of insurance education opportunities through the ULM on-line program as a great benefit to the state of Louisiana."

The grant will allow ULM to increase access to insurance education at the university level to individuals in northeast Louisiana as well as throughout the state. Dr. Christine Berry, insurance studies professor at ULM will head up the project.

"The flexibility of ULM's online program will allow students, employees and employers (including agencies) to use our program to obtain college credit, to meet pre-licensing and continuing education requirements, and for training and education on a wide range of insurance topics. We are grateful to State Farm for allowing us the opportunity to offer insurance education to a wide array of students. Their gift will make a difference. " Dr. Berry said.

"Online education has become an important tool for reaching students in many markets, especially students who are already employed and who desire either a college degree or continuing education. Coupled with the need for continuing education credits by individuals working in the insurance industry, the College of Business Administration at the University of Louisiana at Monroe has the need to develop online courses, seminars, and modules for their insurance studies program. Such an endeavor will increase the number of students in the program and provide access to insurance education to a large number of practitioners in Louisiana and to anyone with Internet access," said Berry.

Upon completion of this project, all of the insurance courses offered at ULM, with the exception of an introductory course and insurance accounting, will be available on-line. The courses will require students enrolled for college credit to meet approximately 20% of the time in the regular classroom setting to maximize the value of the college experience.

The insurance studies program has recently been developed and is an area of growth and expertise for ULM. The current Insurance program has around 20 students with growth anticipated in the future. With the development of online education opportunities made possible by the State Farm grant, students who are located in Louisiana but not in close proximity to Monroe will be more likely to take insurance classes.

ULM is one of only two institutions of higher education in Louisiana that offers a business degree in insurance studies.

Eighty percent of the curriculum for four college insurance courses will be put on-line (one additional course will already be on-line by end of 2003). The Assistant Professor of Insurance/State Farm Endowed Professor of the Insurance Studies will use the University licensed "Blackboard" as a vehicle to develop and deliver these courses.

Additionally, eight shorter insurance and risk management modules will be developed and delivered through blackboard. These will be available 100% on-line.

The entire process of developing the on-line courses will be completed during the 2004 calendar year.

The on-line courses offered will be commercial property and casualty insurance, social and health insurance, business risk management, surplus lines and reinsurance, and life insurance (on-line course development will be completed before grant).

"We believe that offering insurance courses on-line will dramatically increase the number of students enrolled in these courses for college credit. The majority of students attending ULM also work full-time jobs in addition to seeking a college degree. Many students who are presently not taking insurance courses may opt for an insurance course as an elective due to its flexibility. Students who work during the day, for example, can do course-work in the evening. (Currently there are no other courses in the college of business offered as on-line courses)," said Berry.

The $50,000 grant would allow for the development of the four online courses and eight online CE and pre-licensing modules. This also includes costs for paying student workers and sending a faculty member to a conference about online education.

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