Category: Education Programs
Is it true that more students than ever before are enrolling for online education? According to an online education.net article titled 'Enrollment in Online Schools is on the Rise':
… 2.35 million students pursued degrees or training over the Internet in 2004, compared with just 1.98 million students in 2003.
Another sign of the acceptability of online education is the fact that over 56% of schools offering online education consider it a critical long-term strategy. Meaning – online education is here to stay, so let's adapt.
There is a huge range of available programs – right from technical certificates to doctoral degrees. Another heartening feature of online education is that, as compared to the traditional education settings, online education boasts of higher percentages of core faculty.
It’s not just the students; teachers are taking to the blended option too these days. With more and more emphasis on flexibility as the keyword, universities are offering a mixture of online and classroom lectures to extract the best of online learning and face-to-face sessions, because students who have to opt for online classes due to time constraints are also ruing the fact that they will miss the face contact with lecturers and friends in an actual classroom.
Bob Reese, a business administration instructor at the Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC), who has offered an online version of a few of his classes for the past five years, said that surprisingly, there is more communication online than in a classroom. "Every student has to answer questions and reply to everyone else, instead of the five or six students who answer (in the classroom) while the other 30 students just sit there."
IVCC is one of the institutions that have decided to offer blended courses, which mix the amount of time students spend on campus with online learning, to meet the growing demand from people who want to fit an education around their life.
"We looked at the good part of online learning and the good part of traditional learning in the classroom," Emily Vescogni, director of learning technologies at IVCC, said of the decision to implement blended courses. With this option, the time spent in the classroom is reduced to a bare minimum, with online work and interaction replacing traditional classroom discussions.
IVCC has also introduced "Friday College" this year, which offers full-time students of blended courses the chance to attend face-to-face interactions every Friday. This gives them the freedom to be present for lectures only once a week, while enjoying flexible study hours for the other six days.
Professors are also enjoying the mix of online and classroom lectures; Lora Vasiliauskas who teaches an online psychology course at IVCC, is also preparing to offer a blended class. "I find that it helps me organize my lectures so they are better in my traditional classes, as well as online," she said. "There is also that flexibility, to be able to address students’ needs more frequently from home."
It can be called a bridge of sorts between China and the UK; Project e-China, a collaborative effort between the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Chinese Ministry of Education, is designed to draw students in the UK into the portals of universities in China, virtually.
e-China was launched in March 2003, and since then, has grown into four pilot programs and three online joint ventures between UK and Chinese universities. The Beijing Foreign Studies University and the Nottingham University are offering a course in the English language for university teachers, and the Beijing Normal University is offering an online pedagogy course in collaboration with the universities of Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Bristol. These courses are designed to impart training to teachers and lecturers from both UK and Chinese universities in handling a mixed international set of students.
Chinese universities are looking for extra avenues of revenue by turning to distance education programs. There are currently 68 Chinese universities that provide online courses, mostly within China. Two of them __ the Tsinghua University and the Beijing Foreign Studies University __ are involved in collaborative distance education projects with the UK.
Students with an aptitude for and a natural curiosity about international law, journalism and media studies are being targeted by the Tsinghua University, which plans to host postgraduate degree programs and short professional development courses over the Internet. The Beijing Foreign Studies University, already offers a few masters programs online.
HEFCE arranges academic exchanges and also helps staff members establish ground rules, besides evaluating their work. Distance learning materials designed to help students and lecturers in both countries work closer together, are jointly developed by sharing information through a link between the UK higher education grid, Janet (Joint Academic Network) and its Chinese equivalent, Cernet. Online courses developed jointly between UK and Chinese universities can be stored on a local server, where Chinese students can download them at no cost.
Hurricane Katrina has marked a turning point in distance education, bringing it into the focus of many people who might not have taken it seriously before. Most students displaced by the hurricane sought academic relief in distance education courses offered by the Sloan Semester, a consortium of 153 colleges which set up a catalog of courses in a remarkably short time. The effort was undertaken under the leadership of the Southern Regional Education Board, which has 16 member states, and the Sloan Consortium, which promotes standards for online learning.
More subjects were added to the initial catalog of 400 courses to satisfy student demand. Most students who enrolled, did not continue as the semester progressed. Though 1,800 registered to participate, officials are unsure of the exact number who went on to complete the courses. Those who did trudge through the program cannot stop singing the praises of the online instructors and administrators who allowed them to pursue their academic interests even as the other aspects of their lives were falling apart.
In interviews to The Chronicle of Higher Education, several students said that it was difficult for them since many of them were learning how to find their way through online classrooms for the first time. It was indeed testing for many as mail was often delayed, and classes would start before they had received the books need for them. But instructors were often lenient in changing deadlines to accommodate such situations, they added.
Professors teaching in the Sloan program said they are impressed by the quality of the students’ work, especially considering the fact that some of them don’t have their homes and many have other problems to contend with. But most dropped out because they did not have enough access to the Internet and because they did not have enough time to dedicate to studying. Some just stopped responding to my messages and turning in assignments, said an online instructor.
But almost everyone associated with the program agreed that much was at stake for the students who were involved. When even the smallest break in education can sidetrack a promising career, distance education proved a lifesaver for these participants.
The commitment to pursuing an education while fulfilling other demands on their time is driving more and more college students in South Dakota’s public universities to the Internet in search of online classes. The number of electronic credit hours delivered in 2004-05 has increased by 36 percent.
Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen, president of the South Dakota Board of Regents which governs South Dakota’s six public universities __ Black Hills State University, Dakota State University, Northern State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, South Dakota State University, and the University of South Dakota, said that the public university system is expanding its range of electronic offerings in tandem with a group of professors who have a flair for developing online courses. There is a growing need for universities to create more educational opportunities for nontraditional students who cannot attend college on campus and for employers who want their workers to earn degrees or diplomas, he added.
Black Hills State University has seen a rise in the number of registrations for Internet classes and correspondence courses offered through video conferencing, in 2004-05. Sheila Aaker, extended services coordinator at Black Hills State University, said that the main purpose of online classes is to increase the school’s market, especially now, in the face of the decreasing number of high school graduates in South Dakota and most Midwest states.
The reason why most students chose online classes over traditional ones is varied; some cannot rise early to attend an 8 a.m. class because of conflicting work timings, others may just prefer to gather information online rather than hear a professor lecture. A surprising aspect is, that of 10 students who take online classes, 4 live on campus. The responsibility for gathering information rests on the student during an online class, adds Aaker; in a classroom lecture, the student depends on the teacher to provide useful data on the subject.
The classes offered online are on par with those taken by traditional students since the Board of Regents policy places strong emphasis on distance-learning classes to be of the same standards as traditional ones, Aaker said.
Video conferencing which uses two-way audio and video relays is the most preferred method for online classes, especially for subjects that do not have large numbers of students majoring in them, such as French or German, or when high schools cannot or do not want to employ teachers for a particular subject. A teacher on one campus can teach his or her own students simultaneously with students on other campuses through a video conference.
Though it is unreasonable to assume that online enrollments will increase at their current rate, Jewett thinks they will grow at the rate of 10 percent a year.
With more importance being given to health and physical fitness these days, it is no surprise that the online physical education classes on offer from the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) since the spring of 2005, has scores of takers. MPS has over 300 students who signed up over the past year for its budding online physical education classes, and demand is moving further up, noted Kathy Burns, an MPS spokesperson.
"Things have changed in the twenty-first century in many ways, and one change is the wide variety of options and lifestyles for our students," Jan Braaten, curriculum coordinator for physical education and health for the Minneapolis Public Schools, says by way of explanation for the popularity of the course. The Advanced Placement classes offer accommodating and flexible schedules for teen mothers, athletes who participate in a wide range of sports activities and students with a medical history, adds Baarten.
The curriculum meets both national and district standards. Students are required to obtain a medical certificate from a doctor before they meet an instructor to establish their to establish their basic fitness level. After these preliminary tasks are completed, Braaten says that the students receive a heart-rate monitor and are taken progressively through meticulously formulated physical education modules.
Students who enroll for the course are required to maintain a sport/activity journal in which they have to make entries regarding their heart rate, their perceived exertion rate and other relevant details, after a thorough workout, which should last for a minimum of 30 minutes. The journal must have the approving signature of a parent, coach, trainer or any responsible adult. Braaten explains that they are encouraged to work out at least thrice a week. The online program is designed on parallel lines with current trends in physical education to ensure that the students get a healthy workout.
Kathy Burns says that other school districts are making enquiries for the participation of their students as well. Requests for information about online physical education classes have come in from all over the United States and from as far away as Australia, she adds.