Online course offerings expected to increase at Miami based on global trend
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 22:01
Online courses currently make up 1.3 percent of course offerings at Miami University, though a national and global trend suggests this percentage will increase significantly. As society becomes increasingly fast-paced and technology focused, the flexibility offered by online courses is attractive.
Cheryl Young, director of Lifelong Learning, said she expects the percentage of online course offerings to rise 5 to 10 percent over the next three years.
Over six million students are now learning online across the United States, according to Young, where is she getting this info? and nearly a third of all students across the country who are engaged in higher learning are taking at least one online course. In addition, partnership programs between the U.S. and universities abroad are becoming more common.
Young said she predicts Miami will follow this trend.
“I am anticipating more summer and winter session courses online, and more courses that are hybrid in the academic year—face-to-face with some online components,” Young said.
Online courses offer several benefits to students, the greatest benefit being the flexibility to work on assignments whenever and wherever is most convenient. According to Young, students who work irregular hours, for example, may access their classroom via computer, smartphone or tablet at a time that fits their schedule.
Another perk is that class is never cancelled due to inclement weather, decreasing the possibility that material will not be covered on time or in adequate depth, according to Young.
Tom Southern, an educational psychology professor who runs some of the online courses at Miami, said online programs are a great way for students to fit in more classes during their time at Miami without extending the number of years they spend here. For faculty, online courses provide the opportunity to offer classes that would not otherwise be possible due to shrinking budgets.
“Because it is outside the normal central university budgeting process, we can offer programs we do not have the staff or budget to do normally,” Southern said. “The online minor in special education is an example. We simply do not have the faculty to do this if not for it being online and paid for through a workshop model.”
Young said it is important for students to recognize that online courses are not easier than traditional courses taught in a classroom. In addition, online courses may further extend students’ knowledge with their intense technology focus, which incorporates digital libraries, discussion boards, mobile applications, test-builders, Wikis and more.
Southern added that some elements of online courses, such as online quizzes and other activities, are now used to compliment the traditional classroom by enhancing learning through increased interaction outside of class time.
According to Young, it is a common misconception that Miami stands to benefit financially from offering courses online rather than in the classroom. Tuition from online courses is used to pay for expenses such as software, instructional design, student support, registration and the bursar. Tuition for in-class, online and hybrid courses is all the same on Miami’s main campus, however, there is a differentiated fee structure for the regional campuses.
According to Southern, the option to offer courses online is a great one, however he said it is not a substitute for a university experience and that some limitations exist. Lab components, field experiences and capstones, for example, are very difficult if not impossible to translate into an online format.
Though online courses become more popular, some students still prefer the traditional in-class experience.
Junior Chelsea Stegman said that the flexibility of online classes is appealing, but that learning in the classroom is more effective.
“I would consider taking an online class over the summer when I am busy with work, but during the year I definitely prefer to be in a classroom,” Stegman said.
Southern said he believes growth in the number of online courses offered will continue.
“It is an enormous trend nationally, and I expect offerings and enrollments will rise nationally and at Miami,” Southern said.