Distance learning focus of new position

Suzi Starheim

Course capacity also to be addressed

Kent State will add a position within the Office of the Provost this summer.

Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said the person to be hired as associate provost of extended education will begin to solve capacity issues in all courses and advance distance education techniques.

“Summer is the time when a lot of students can knock out one class and make sure they don’t get slowed down in their progress through their curriculum,” Frank said. “So a lot of students don’t do it because it’s just too complicated.”

Summer classes are currently complicated because students have a hard time finding the right course at the right time, Frank added.

Frank said he hopes to see someone coming into the position who has experience with distance education, which will be one of the big issues this new person will have to advance.

“We are late to the distance learning game,” Frank said. “A lot of other universities got in it more quickly than we did with more emphasis. If we are going to really have effective programs, we need to make sure that we don’t waste much more time in that area.”

Distance learning includes the opportunity for students to take courses online, or in other ways that do not necessarily involve sitting in a lecture hall. To see how courses can be taken in different ways, the provost had a team of Kent State faculty members do an analysis of the capacity of courses offered across the university

Frank said this analysis showed that most courses are only running at about 68 percent of their capacity. In other words, 32 percent of the seats are empty in most classes.

Because of the lack of thought behind course capacity, the team of faculty did a university-wide analysis of every class offered. They then analyzed how many students were in each course and saw how that compared to the overall capacity of the course.

Along with the issue of distance education and course capacity, Frank said the new administrator will have to determine the tuition and fees for courses conducted by distance learning, how it is coordinated across different campuses and then fix all of the “little mechanical stuff” that students have to use when registering for these types of courses.

“Right now, it falls between the cracks in the provost’s office and the colleges, and that’s one of the reasons we haven’t really advanced it,” Frank said. “We want somebody who comes in here every day and that’s their number one agenda that day is to make sure we advance those issues.”

While Frank said he feels the university will benefit from the new administrator, he said there will be hesitation from some faculty members.

“Everybody would like to see us add people into the faculty, but we have to have some people to do these other things to make the faculty’s work happen,” Frank added.

Applications will be accepted through May 13 for the position, and the provost said he expects to make a choice by June.

Contact academics reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].