By popular demand, Kent State expanding online class options

Regina Garcia Cano

Distance learning lets students study at their own pace

Distance learning allows students the flexibility of taking classes at home in their pajamas or in their office in between meetings. But online classes can also allow students to graduate early or advance their careers.

“It can be pretty convenient for students, especially adult students, part-time students who can only study part-time and need to work full-time, or need to work in some capacity,” said Deborah Huntsman, executive director of the Office of Continuing Studies and Distance Education.

Huntsman said the demand of online classes typically mirrors the demand of ground classes.

“We try to offer some of those courses that the largest number of students need to fulfill their degree requirements,” Huntsman said. “This way they have the option of taking those classes that they might want to take all by themselves, especially over the summer, so that they can really focus on it.”

For junior communication major Zack Kinsey, e-learning prevented him from falling behind his graduation schedule.

“The summer before fall semester, I was diagnosed with mono, and the doctor didn’t want me to attend classes, so online classes were the way to go,” Kinsey said.

So far in his college career, Kinsey has taken three online courses, and he said he will keep enrolling in them.

“The advantage is that you can do things at your own pace,” Kinsey said. “Also, you can use your notes and books during quizzes and tests.”

But online classes do not mean an easy A.

Huntsman said distance learning is no less rigorous than in-class learning.

“It’s actually a lot more work,” Kinsey said. “One day I had to write two papers, take two quizzes and participate in discussion boards because they were due at midnight.”

Huntsman said online and ground classes offer the same course material, but the resources used to deliver the content vary. These differences allow some students to have a better learning experience than the one they would have in a classroom.

“What I’ve heard from faculty is that some students are more comfortable contributing in an online format even more so than they’re contributing in a classroom where they might not be the first one to speak,” said Patricia Book, vice president of regional development.

College students are not the only ones who can benefit from distance learning. Employees can increase their chances of securing their job despite the competitive market they’re facing caused by the recession.

“(Distance learning is) very good for people who are highly motivated to enhance their educational credentials to stay in the job market, advance in the job market or transition in the job market if they find themselves in jeopardy,” Book said.

The Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is the only full-online degree that Kent State currently offers. The university launched it this semester with a class of 30 students.

Book said the College of Communication and Information, the College of Education, Health and Human Services and the College of Technology have demonstrated some interest in creating online degrees.

To expand its online classes catalog, the university asked faculty members interested in creating an online course to submit an application describing their possible class. A committee selected six projects and the winners will receive a $6,000 grant to develop their course this semester. The six classes will be open for students to register during the summer.

Contact academics reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].