University hopes to triple online courses within the next 3 years



Jessica Costello

Read:Hybrid classes pave the way for new methods of instruction

The Office of Continuing and Distance Learning is increasing the number of online courses available to all students and is hoping for an increase in enrollment.

“I have challenged the faculty for more distance learning options,” President Lester Lefton said. “ I hired Provost Rubin to triple distance learning. In 2 to 3 years I’m expecting 15,000 students to be registered for online classes.”

The demand for online education is increasing as students are looking to take classes that fit their schedule. So, Kent State University is offering more online courses to better serve those students who have other commitments outside of school.

“Students who are raising a family or are place bound are not able to get a degree unless it is brought to them,” said Associate Provost Wanda Thomas. “We want to allow students the option of how they complete their programs, whether it’s all online or a mix of online and face-to-face.”

Distance learning isn’t specific to online courses. Students have the option of taking course that meet in a classroom, don’t meet at all, or require online video conferences. Every college has at least a one online course offered to its students and approximately 1 in 5 students have enrolled in some type of distance learning course, according to the Office of Continuing and Distance Learning. It allows students at regional campuses to get the expertise from faculty members who teach at the main campus or who need to fit in one or two more classes to complete their degree without enrolling for another semester.

“The convenience students get from online courses gives them a real advantage in their own life,” Lefton said.

Faculty members who are interested in creating distance learning courses can work with the universities educational technologists to develop high quality courses students can take online or partially online, where they may meet in the classroom only once a week.

“If possible we want to increase the number of educational technologists and improve our technological infrastructure,” said Richard Rubin, associate provost of extended education. Although a university-wide hiring freeze is in place, Lefton said educational technologists are an exception because they are “mission critical” to the university.

By increasing the number of educational technologists, the university can create more distance learning courses. With so many online classes being created and the rise of students enrolling in online courses, faculty members are also being trained on how to deliver material online.

“We’re facing some fiscal challenges right now but I’m hoping we can continue, in a frugal way, to support our faculty and our students,” Rubin said.

The university hopes to create more bachelor programs throughout the regional campuses that students can complete online. By offering bachelor programs online it has a better chance of increasing enrollment than if it was offered only at a specific campus. Students interested in that degree can obtain it regardless of their location.

According to Rubin, enrollment in all distance learning courses increased nearly 50 percent from Fall 2009 to Fall 2010. More than 450 courses are being taught through distance learning, 328 of those courses taught completely online.

“We need significant growth in some of our programs and degrees we might offer,” Rubin said. “I believe in Kent State as an educational institution, and I believe others who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to come would benefit from it and I’m committed to that aspect.”

Contact Jessica Costello at [email protected].