Utah’s Western Governors University (WGU), a fully online institution, is giving scholarships for a new technology-rich masters program to 50 Utah teachers.

The state Board of Education has granted provisional approval to WGU’s Master of Arts in Learning and Technology, a program that will focus on showing teachers how to use technology in their classrooms. The university acts as broker for online classes provided by existing schools.

The new masters program, requested by Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, is part of an effort to jump-start the virtual university, which has had a dismal enrollment since its launch last year. One teacher from each of Utah’s 40 districts will be selected for a scholarship, as will 10 at-large educators from around the state. Normal tuition and fees for the masters program are $3,000, plus an additional $2,500 to $3,000 for learning opportunities and software. The scholarships will be funded through corporate donations.

Though WGU is not yet accredited, school officials say they hope it will be by next spring, a year before the first students would complete the program. Meanwhile, not everyone is happy about the free tuition idea. Southern Utah University, which offers a similar program for teachers, is balking at the plan, saying it will be “at a decided disadvantage” to compete with WGU because it has “no equivalent scholarship dollars.”