Summer enrollment increases, online courses create flexibility

Rachel Hagenbaugh

For the first time, half of Kent State students enrolled in summer classes are taking them online.

Deborah Huntsman, director of the office of continuing and distance education, said the summer online course development grant helped Kent State fund 24 new, fully online courses.

Student enrollment for online summer classes increased by about 35 percent from summer 2010 to summer 2011, said Richard Rubin, associate provost for extended education.

“The message has gotten through that online teaching is in high demand,” Rubin said.

Instructional designers and development teams assist faculty members in the creation and organization of online courses. Huntsman said the development teams recently hired two associate educational technicians to assist with the increase of online courses.

In the fall, a formal training and education program will be offered to professors who have never taught online classes. Rubin said this program’s emphasis will show professors how to teach online courses more effectively.

“It is our goal to teach professors to do it themselves,” Huntsman said.

Professors from the English department are beta testing the formal training program this summer. Valerie Kelly, senior instructional designer, said this program is an online course.

“It gives the faculty a chance to see an online course through a student’s perspective,” Kelly said.

The course will show professors the best practices of online education. They will learn how to build a weekly module, access student progress and form online threaded discussions.

The program is an active learning course, which means the professors will discuss the issues and techniques of online learning with each other. At the end of the course, the English department will give their feedback on the program so it can be enhanced and fully operational for all departments in the fall.

“This training program gives professors the opportunity to create a vision for their courses,” Huntsman said.

In addition to this program, Kent State will be launching a website that will provide resources for online teaching. The website will include blogs for professors to help create a learning opportunity for each other.

In the next few years, Blackboard Vista will be transitioned to Blackboard Learn. Huntsman said Blackboard Learn will be a new platform for online courses. Enhancements will make it easier for faculty to manage online courses through Blackboard Learn, which includes making it more user friendly and adding a new layout.

In the past, there was a heavier emphasis on online classes for graduate programs, Rubin said. Older students were more interested in online courses because of the flexibility it provided.

Kent State will begin to work toward offering more core classes online. If more classes are offered online, it will reduce some of the problems students have with scheduling classes. This also helps students get through college quicker, Rubin said.

Huntsman said she gets positive feedback from students about the online programs Kent State offers. They are pleased by the convenient options online courses provide.

Junior exploratory major Evan Courtright, said he has taken at least four 100 percent, online courses. He said he liked the online courses because it gave him the opportunity to access the class whenever he wanted.

“It helps get a lot of classes out of the way, like math and foreign language requirements,” Courtright said.

Online courses enable students to continue learning whether they are raising children, working full-time jobs or studying abroad.

Rubin said he wants Kent State to have the same “menu of delivery” that other universities have. Without a wide selection of online courses, Kent State would lose students to competing universities.

“It allows us to reach out to people who otherwise wouldn’t have the Kent (State) experience,” Rubin said.

Contact Rachel Hagenbaugh, the academic and faculty affairs reporter, at [email protected].