Online enrollment jumps over past year

Suzi Starheim

Students turn to online courses for flexibility and engagement

Online course enrollment has increased at Kent State in response to the university working to make these courses more readily available for students.

Online course enrollment has increased at Kent State in response to the university working to make these courses more readily available for students.

Deborah Huntsman, executive director of the division of continued studies, said new online courses and the flexibility they offer contributed to the increase in enrollment.

“We wanted to increase the access for students who wanted to take courses but couldn’t come to our campus,” Huntsman said. “The ultimate goal would be to have every course online for students to be able to study online or on campus, whatever works for them.”

Junior English major Jamie Bloss said the online class she is taking is “very easy” and can be done whenever is convenient for her.

The course, Classical Elements from Greek and Latin Words, was Bloss’ choice because she needed another LER.

“You do the same thing over and over again for every lesson, so it’s kind of just like busy work,” she said.

Bloss said after reading each section in this online course, students have to take three quizzes. They can do assignments anytime during the day until the professor closes the lessons.


Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said one benefit of online courses is the powerful teaching tools they have.

“If you mix and match them, you can get students engaged, and they can’t hide in the corners or sit in the back (of a classroom),” Frank said. “They have to be paying attention, and you can really pull a student into the here and now of a class very effectively online in ways you can’t do in big lecture courses.”

Frank said he would like to see every Kent State student have the option of taking an online course.

But online classes can be a detriment for students if they don’t know what to expect from the course.

Frank said the general idea about online courses is they will involve less work and time, when in fact the opposite is true.

“They are more time-demanding and if students don’t budget their time well, they get themselves in a crunch for time and don’t do well in the course,” Frank said.

After her online course experience, Bloss said she would rather take a regular course on campus.

“It is easy and nice to just take if for an LER, but if it was for my major, I would probably want to be in contact with the professor and really talking to them,” Bloss said.

She said overall, she would rather take an online course that had to meet with the professor in person or had to meet online at a certain time.

Developing programs

Huntsman said faculty were chosen to receive grants to help develop new online courses. The grants were $6,000 more than their salary.

These grants, along with the cost of running online education, are not cheap, Frank said.

“It’s expensive for a university to run online education,” he said. “Most universities jump into this thing thinking they can run it more cheaply than they run their regular programs.”

Frank said online courses can cost more for colleges to run because of the number of students universities can manage online.

Huntsman said Kent State was behind other universities in offering online degree programs. But a partnership with Embanet, a provider of online program development, helped market courses and recruit students.

The first online-only degree program offered is the registered nurse to bachelor’s of Science in nursing program, which allows registered nurses to gain a bachelor’s degree. The program was launched in January 2009, and by December 2009, 225 students were enrolled.

Huntsman said she would like Kent State to offer more online-only degrees because there is no reason students can’t complete a degree electronically in the future.

Huntsman said she would also like to see out-of-state students looking to study through online courses.

“We want students coming from a number of states other than Ohio, and that will also offer options to students studying abroad or to international students to keep their program of study on track,” she said.

Contact academics reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].