Online classes just for fun, not credits

Erin Hopkins

Mix up “luscious, low-fat meals” with writing about crime scenes, and you could get a pretty good plot line.

Or it could add up to a couple of non-credit classes that might prove to be a change of pace or a new line on a résumé.

Kent is one of more than 1,200 colleges and universities that subscribes to courses offered through an online service called Education To Go. Certified instructors from around the country teach specialized six-week courses dealing with subjects from computer programming to selling and buying on

There is a fee of $69 – $199 for each course, and classes are offered through the regional campuses, said Marlene Dorsey, dean of the College of Continuing Studies.

Tom Hilston, manager of workforce development at the Geauga Campus, said about 250 classes are offered, but only 20 students are enrolled.

“We’re devoting quite a part of our summer catalog (to the classes) and will use that to advertise,” Hilston said.

According to, students must first complete an online orientation for their desired course. The orientation teaches students how to log on to their classroom, contact the instructor and access other important information.

Classes are broken down into lessons that students can access from their home, school or work computers at any time of day. The instructor decides when each lesson will be available and when assignments will be due. An online discussion board gives students a chance to talk about their assignments and ask the instructor questions.

Donna Acosta, registered dietitian and instructor for the course Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals, said quizzes are given throughout the course for the student’s benefit. Each student takes a final exam, and if they successfully complete the course (as determined by their college or university), they receive a certificate of completion.

Acosta said the online classes have some obvious advantages.

“They offer a great deal more freedom than a credit class,” Acosta said. “And they have the advantage of being able to reach people from around the country, even the world. There’s a need for these things…it’s a good opportunity to help people help themselves.”

Phillip Jones, Ph.D., J.D. and instructor for the course Demystifying Forensic Science: A Writer’s Guide, said in an e-mail an advantage to the online classes is that students and instructors do not have to meet at the same time.

“The course fits into all of our schedules,” Jones said. “Also, the Internet course offers the opportunity to meet people with very different backgrounds and viewpoints.”

There are also downsides to the courses, Jones said.

“You cannot see a student’s reaction to the material,” Jones said. “When I’ve taught in real time, I have found it useful to keep an eye on audience response.”

Acosta said that from a teaching perspective, a downside is not being able to see the students apply the material.

“I really miss watching people cook and seeing how their food turns out,” Acosta said, adding that the reaction of those eating the meal is a big part of how she teaches.

Because the courses are not for a grade, the instructors only hope their students learn something from their experiences in the class.

“My goal is to make people independent of me…pick up a recipe and make the low-fat changes without me,” Acosta said.

The next series of courses is scheduled to begin on March 16. For more information, go to

Contact regional campus reporter Erin Hopkins at [email protected].