The University of Washington plans to offer its first online-only bachelor s degree program starting this fall.

The program in early childhood and family studies aims to fill the growing demand for preschool teachers, providing early care and education workers a more flexible, affordable path to degree completion.

This work will train the next generation of professionals who are closing the achievement gap, Dean of the UW College of Education Tom Stritikus said in a statement. There is a national crisis in early childhood education and this program will help solve that problem by being responsive through curriculum based on equity and justice.

Students will learn largely by watching videos of good teaching examples and then making their own videos of themselves practicing the techniques in preschool classrooms, according to the Seattle Times.

The program s flexibility, intended to provide a convenient way for practicing professionals to fulfill federal and state requirements for bachelor s degrees, allows students to complete much of their work on their own schedules.

It also comes at a fraction of the cost.

With support from a Next Generation Learning Challenges grant, partially funded by the Gates Foundation, the program will cost students $160 per credit, which is equivalent to $7,000 for a year of full-time study regardless of where they live.

The university's traditional full-time degree programs run more than $12,000 per year for Washington state residents, and nearly $30,000 for nonresidents.

The new program is designed for students who have completed a two-year associate s degree, or started college and then discontinued their studies. Eligible students will have earned 70 eligible transfer credits at the UW or elsewhere.

Applications for the program are set to open May 7, with classes beginning September 25.

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