The Republican -Online College Classes Transforming Education
Online education is transforming the ways that colleges and university teach and students learn. American International College, for example, is setting up programs in Egypt, Britain, Ireland and Italy that utilize online learning to augment instruction in those far-flung satellite campuses.
"It's very exciting and they are absolutely embracing the fact that we are here," said Roland E. Holstead, AIC's vice president for educational enterprise, speaking during a telephone interview from Cairo. UMassOnline, the University of Massachusetts' online component, meanwhile, is growing by leaps and bounds. During fiscal year 2007, enrollment reached 26,627, up 25 percent from the previous fiscal year. Revenue, meanwhile, tallied to about $28 million in fiscal year 2007, up 32.1 percent over 2006. The program was launched in 2001.
Barbara Macaulay UMassOnline Chief Academic Officer, said the concept resonates with those juggling jobs or childcare or even those simply tired of fighting traffic every day. "Convenience has often been listed as the first reason," Macaulay said "Some students work better in the morning, some work better in the evening and some work better at midnight," said Sheila Q. Rucki, interim director of the graduate nursing program at AIC which features online learning.
Westfield State College and a number of other area colleges including Springfield Technical Community College and Springfield College also have a growing online presence. "More and more there is an interest for our students to be able to juggle life and family and so forth," Robert Bristow, associate vice president of enrollment management at Westfield State said. "It certainly is the way a lot of education is going," Western New England College spokesman David M. Stawasz said.
UMass Online also offers a variety of blended programs, offerings boosted last year by a $650,000 grant from the Sloan Foundation. In all it has 71 degree and certificate programs that span the disciplines and are offered by the five UMass campuses in Amherst, Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth and Worcester. The most popular online offerings at UMass include such fields as business, management education, nursing/health sciences, psychology, technology and criminal justice, officials said.
Business degree completion programs are also popular, Macaulay said. Western New England, along with a number of undergraduate course offerings, has a bachelor of business administration completion program that is entirely online.
"I describe it now as walking through a dark tunnel and 'boom' - the whole thing lights up...You get to know students in a very good way." UMassOnline classes can utilize chat room-style features and discussion boards to delve into issues, Macaulay said. There is also a Web conferencing tool where students and their professor can hold live sessions - share the same images on their computers. "It's a very cool tool," Macaulay said.