Traditional Colleges Embrace Online Classrooms

by Eric Francis  on Monday, Jun. 25, 2012 12:00 am  

Charles L. "Chuck" Welch, president of the ASU System, said that the feedback from the business community - the folks who will be hiring newly minted MBAs or sending their employees out to get an online degree - has been positive.

"What we have heard in just about all the disciplines is that most employers don't see a dramatic difference in student skill levels, whether they did an online degree or face-to-face classes," said Welch. "I think the business community realizes that technology is changing their own businesses just as it has the business of higher education."

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is retooling how it approaches online learning with the division it calls the Global Campus. Javier Reyes, a nine-year UA veteran who was most recently an associate dean at the Walton College of Business, has been tapped to take over as vice provost for distance learning in July. He believes there is ample precedent that good online learning programs are no different from their in-classroom counterparts.

"What we see is that has already happened in MBA programs and graduate programs in engineering," said Reyes. "It's the same level of quality, just different methods. They make it available for those folks who can't get out of their job for a year and need to continue to deliver the goods for their company, and at the same time get a degree."

For that reason, Reyes believes online learning is a natural fit for graduate programs, which are generally smaller and populated by students who are there for a specific reason. In Fayetteville, the university offers an operations management program in engineering and a managerial MBA online already.

But there are changes in store at the Global Campus that Reyes said will allow it to concentrate on online learning. For example, the department used to also handle academic outreach and media services and run the conference center. Those units have been placed under the purview of other departments, he said, so his department can focus more closely on the needs of both students and individual departments.

"We're going to identify our strategies for each of the colleges," said Reyes. "The Global Campus itself has to rely on the efforts of our colleges. When you think of the Fulbright College, the Walton College, the Bumpers College, the programs we have are superb programs and we have to facilitate their efforts."

Partnership Envisioned

So, no cookie-cutter approach to online learning at Fayetteville. Plus, no limiting efforts to just university students alone: Reyes would like to see the university partner with high schools that don't have the resources to, for instance, provide Advanced Placement courses. The university could provide the actual coursework and the school would only need to have the students and classroom space.

"We're looking at the whole spectrum of students," he said. "Nontraditional students trying to finish a degree, traditional students who would like to stay around their parents for two more years, or ones in face-to-face classes on campus who would like to speed up their progress and take some online courses, or the students that would like to start their college education but are still in high school."

(Ensuring Quality Instruction)

(Not All Subjects Work Online)

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