Online courses give students more options

In 1922, Kent State offered its first distance learning program through correspondence courses.

Today, 54 percent of undergraduate students are taking at least one online course said Laura Andrews the director of Digital Strategy and Marketing Communications.

The distance learning program offered higher education to students who were not able to be on campus. Students participated in classes by mailing assignments to professors in their courses. 

Kent State offers approximately 5,000 online courses each academic year and 50 fully online degree programs.

“Online classes allow for students to craft the schedule that fits their timeframes and fits their situation. We want to make sure students aren’t overloaded,” said Andrews.

By offering online courses, a study done by the Pew Research Center found universities can attract a broader range of students and increase the quality of education. 

Kent State focuses on students first, Andrews said. The university understands students may work or participate in extracurriculars, which makes online courses appealing to students because they can work on the course on their own time. 

“Online classes are easier to schedule because there is less of a time conflict,” said Katie Jaegly, a senior public health major. 

Online courses are offered at all levels. Jaegly took four of her Kent Core classes online because she felt they were easier.  

“The general electives are pretty easy to take online because you can teach yourself the material,” Jaegly said. “Once it gets up to the 3000 and 4000 level classes I would rather take them in person.” 

When students take an online class, they are left to take quizzes and exams unsupervised. When asked if it is easier to cheat in an online course, 73.8 percent of students surveyed by the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration felt that it was easier to cheat. Sites such as Quizlet can be used for this purpose. 

Quizlet, an online flashcard site, is meant to provide a study resource for students, but some of Kent State’s online courses are on the site providing answers to quizzes and exams. 

“It should be expected if you have an online course that there’s going to be people who use Quizlet to look up answers,” Jaegly said. 

To prevent this from happening, Dean Porr, an assistant professor in the College of Business Administration, randomizes his exam questions. 

“No test is ever the same,” he said. 

Kent State also offers proctored testing for online courses. This allows a proctor to watch a student take an exam and have control over the computer, so they are not able to cheat. 

Online courses do not have a scheduled meeting time and students become responsible for making the time to complete the work. To stay caught up, Andrews suggests that students set a block of time each week to do the work. 

“Students need to acknowledge that it’s going to be a little bit different and that they have to be a little bit self-motivated to get through this course,” Andrews said. 

While online courses allow for flexibility, Megan Pietrusinski, a senior nursing major, finds online classes to be harder. 

“I don’t really like online classes,” she said. “I’d prefer having a class set in my schedule and sit through a boring lecture than having to force myself to watch a boring lecture.”

Face-to-face communication aids in the learning process, Pietrusinski said. She thinks it’s hard to communicate with professors online. 

“When I have taken online classes, I never reached out to the professor because it was easy to forget that they are even there,” she said. 

Each professor has a preferred way to communicate with students online. One of Porr’s problems comes from students not paying attention to the announcements, he said.   

“I’ve got a student that can’t access the second exam because she didn’t take the first exam,” Porr said. “She thought because we’re going to have five-module exams and a comprehensive final, and we’re going to drop one that she wouldn’t take the first exam.” 

Students need to understand the work it takes to do well in online classes. 

“It’s easier to procrastinate. It’s easier to not watch the lectures. It’s very time consuming to all the work in a non-traditional class,” Pietrusinski said. 

Kent State undergraduate students are taking over 89,000 credit hours online, and Andrews hopes online education will keep growing.

“We look at online as the way for students to have some more autonomy in their schedule and in their life,” Andrews said, “and allow them to do other things on campus or off-campus while still getting that education.”

Contact Katie Thompson at [email protected].