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Miami accepts limited types of outside online courses

By Jessica Barga
On February 28, 2013

With online learning companies such as Udacity and Coursera becoming more mainstream, it is easier than ever for students around the world to have access to classes. However, these online learning companies may not benefit students already in universities.

Websites like Udacity are referred to as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), according to Cheryl Young, co-chair for Miami University's eLearning Advisory Council. Through these websites, universities can develop courses and share them online, where they are available to anyone.

Use of these MOOCs can vary.

"For example, a business might want their employees to take a course, and they would purchase a transcript from the website," Young said. "[However], the business model isn't really clear. Miami does not have a partnership agreement with any of these companies."

Part of the reason some universities are not on board with the idea is that the courses a student takes must be specifically offered through their own university.

"If a Miami student wanted to take a MOOC, they would not get credit," Young said. "I can't see any advantage to Miami students if [the university] partnered with a MOOC."

As sites like Udacity continue to gain popularity, more schools may find ways to incorporate them into their academic models, Young said.

"Suddenly they've just exploded, and we're trying to figure out how they work," Young said. "I would want to make sure that if we were going to do anything through Miami, it would be high-quality."

As part of the eLearning Advisory Council (eLAC), Young also helps the university evaluate and develop online learning initiatives at Miami, including online classes.

"eLAC is addressing issues at Miami, including MOOCs," Young said.

"[We're] investing in making sure we're staying ahead of innovation ... we want to know what's out there on the horizon," Young said. "We're building a foundation so we can move forward with e-learning."

However, many Miami students at the Oxford campus are not involved with online learning or taking online classes, according to statistics provided by Tim Kuykendoll, senior assistant registrar for technology.

Although Miami currently offers 108 different online courses, only 5 percent of students on the Oxford campus were enrolled in one or more this school year, according to Kuykendoll. In contrast, 17 percent of students at the Hamilton campus and 22 percent of students at the Middletown campus were enrolled in one or more online classes.

Local high schools like Talawanda High School also offer various online options for students.

"We have credit recovery courses online, where students who...need to make up credits to graduate can work on their course from home, or in their spare time," Matt Smith, guidance counselor at Talawanda High School, said.

Talawanda also allows students to participate in a work program where they can take their classes online in the morning and work in the community during the afternoon.

A third option is a combination of online and traditional classroom learning.

"We have blended learning classes, where a course is structured online with a teacher there to help walk students through it," Smith said.

Sophomore Willy Golden said he had a positive experience with his EDP 279 online class last semester.

"It was my easiest class last semester because I didn't have to go in, and I did like the method of the class because the way it was set up was modeled after Facebook," Golden said.

Golden said he liked the online class overall, was able to learn similarly to a regular classroom environment, and would take another through Miami primarily because of the convenience.

"Not having to go in to meet was definitely a huge timesaver," he said.

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