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The University of Washington will begin offering its first all-online degree program this fall, allowing about 100 students to earn a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood education without having to attend classes in person.

Instead, the students will learn, in part, by watching videos of good teaching examples and then making their own videos of themselves practicing those techniques in preschool classrooms.

“The use of technology in practice-based teaching situations enables us to do things we might not even be able to do face-to-face,” said Tom Stritikus, dean of the College of Education at the UW. “The video technology itself is really, really promising.”

Supported in part by a private grant, the degree program will cost students $160 per credit, which is the equivalent of $7,000 for a year of full-time study — several thousand less than the UW currently charges for in-state students working on their undergraduate degrees.

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Stritikus said the program draws on years of research done at the UW on the best ways to teach preschoolers.

The program is designed for students who have already completed a two-year associate degree or already have 70 or more credits that are eligible for transfer. The UW expects the program will appeal to people who are already working in child care and who will enroll part-time.

The program will also use standard lecture classes recorded for online viewing. The program is limited to 100 students this fall, but could have as many as 300 students in the next few years, Stritikus said.

Washington state residents, and students with previous credits from the UW, will have admission preference, and the university will begin accepting applications in early May.

Students who have attended community college, but did not earn an associate degree, may also be able to transfer into the program. Participating community colleges are Shoreline Community College and the Seattle Community Colleges — North, South and Seattle Central.

The UW picked early-childhood education for its first online-degree program because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects preschool-teacher employment to grow by one-quarter during the next decade. That’s because of a focus on the importance of early-childhood education and a growing population of preschool children.

“We know early-childhood education is a key to closing the achievement gap and relevant degrees can play a huge part,” Stritikus said.

The cost of developing the degree was funded in part by a Next Generation Learning Challenges grant partially funded by the Gates Foundation. It will be administered by UW Educational Outreach and will be self-sustaining, with no state funds used.

UW President Michael Young said he expects the university will soon begin offering other online-degree-completion programs, and even some bachelor’s degrees offered entirely online.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or On Twitter @katherinelong.

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