The past decade brought on the trend of incorporating the Internet into daily life, and higher education is no exception. In recent years, colleges have been increasing the number of online courses available to students.
Following this trend, John Carroll University began offering several online courses during the summer through the Blackboard system. For Summer 2010, there are seven online courses scheduled, including two courses in the MBA program, four undergraduate programs and one graduate course in education.
JCU does not offer as many online courses as other larger universities such as The Ohio State University or Case Western Reserve University. According to Joseph Miller, professor of communications and director of the summer school program, this is due to the student population that the University attracts. Online courses often attract adult learners who return to college to earn a second degree.
“As a small university, John Carroll does not hold the same appeal to the adult learning population [as other schools],” said Miller.
However, freshman Ryan Zubal feels that more online courses would benefit JCU students.
“I think more online classes would be better because there would be more flexibility with my schedule and allow me to choose when I want to take my classes,” Zubal said.
Although most of the online courses at JCU are offered only during the summer, several business courses have sections which are offered completely online during the fall and spring semesters. These online courses are sections of BI 107, 108 and 109.
According to Karen Schuele, dean of the Boler School of Business, the entire BI sequence will eventually be online. The nature of the BI courses dictate that they will have online success since the courses are based on technology and computer systems and the professors tend to be more technologically savvy.
Additionally, the marketplace for graduate courses in the MBA program is the driving force behind the online MBA
“The eventual goal is to offer all foundational MBA courses online so that it will be easier for students who were not undergraduate business majors to be on the same page,” said Schuele.
According to Miller, however, the Boler School of Business is moving more in the direction of online courses than is the College of Arts and Sciences. Thus far, online courses within the College of Arts and Sciences have been during the summer only.
Peter Kvidera, associate dean for academic affairs, acknowledged there has been discussion about expanding some classes to include online courses but it is only in discussion at this point. Discussion has included whether online courses would be for introductory courses, upper level courses or graduate level courses.
“The summer was an experimental initiative with online courses at JCU. There is no clear path or definitive direction for online classes. Some of the faculty members look at online classes with skepticism because they believe that a classroom setting, with discussion and debate, is crucial towards a students’ education,” said Kvidera.
In terms of summer courses, Miller said it is fundamentally up to the individual professor if they wish to teach an online course during the summer. The professor must propose the course they wish to teach online and then is approved by the department chair and Miller.
“The role of the faculty member, as well as the dept chair and me, is to insure the goals and objectives of the online course are the same as for a traditional course. Faculty want to insure the different approaches in teaching online result in the likelihood of learning the same knowledge as in a regular course,” said Miller.
Miller said that the problem with the increased utilization of the internet as an educational tool, new problems with security and academic integrity arise.
Miller said, “The question is who is taking the course? There have been problems in the past with students having people take the classes for them.”
Other problems that arise from online courses is if students gain the same as they would from a traditional course and that dropout rate is higher in online courses.
Freshman Mary Riedl agreed there is a downside to offering courses online.
“It would just be difficult to get all the work done and stay focused when there isn’t much forcing you to go to class, and a lot of distractions,” said Reidl.
At JCU, there has been interest from students in the summer online courses offered in the past. According to Miller, all of the online courses have met the minimum enrollment requirement and some course have nearly reached the enrollment capacity.
Ultimately, the success of online courses depend on the student, according to Miller.
“Online courses are only effective if students are committed to putting in the effort and doing the work,” said Miller.