Students turn to online courses

The number of college students that take at least one online course has risen to 32 percent nationwide, according to College Atlas. Many Oswego State students also fall into this category.

Over 130 courses are offered to “distant learners” of Oswego State and currently, 58 of these classes are already filled for the spring semester.

“Overall, the number of colleges that offer online courses grows from year to year,” said Gregory Ketcham, director of Innovative Academic Programs at Oswego State.  “Oswego State is a part of this number and it offers students a large variety of online courses to choose from.

“I think that online courses are a very positive thing, simply because they offer a lifestyle choice for learners,” Ketcham said.  “Many students may prefer direct face-to-face contact with a professor and other students that is available in a classroom, but online courses are much more flexible for those who are bound by time or place.”

Ketcham is also an adjunct professor who teaches an online section of CSC 101: Tools for Computing.

“It’s always interesting to hear about the pre-conceived expectations that students have about online courses though,” Ketcham said. “Typically, students come in thinking that online courses are easier and can be done on their own time.  Neither are true.”

Ketcham also said online courses have scheduled assignments and strict due dates, just like any other college course.

“There is still just as much work and they are equally as difficult as regular courses,” he said.

Despite their flexibility, online courses have presented some interesting new challenges for professors and students alike.  Denise Casey, who teaches several online sections of COM 313: Public Relations Writing and Mass Media, has had some trouble with Angel, Oswego State’s learning management system.

“There are definitely technical glitches that need to be sorted out,” Casey said, who previously worked with the Blackboard system.  “I have experienced problems with everything from the learning systems to my own computer.  But, I am still very engaged in the courses that I teach and I expect my students to be too.”

Casey teaches two sections of COM 313 from San Diego, Calif., and has over 50 Oswego State students.  Hannah McNamara, one of the students who is currently enrolled in the COM 313 course, says that the fact that the course is online is quite “beneficial.”  “Online courses are much better than being in class,” McNamara said.  “I am able to manage my assignments on my own schedule.  But, there is definitely less interaction than would be present in a classroom.”

“The thing is, online courses were not designed so that students can sit in their dorm rooms,” Ketcham said.  “We want people to get out and meet others, to socialize.  Instead, online courses are in place to help non-traditional students stay on track with their degree requirements.”

Ketcham made note of the countless opportunities that are available to Oswego State students who want to participate in off-campus internships and co-operative educational experiences.

“Extended Learning has made it possible for students to make use of such opportunities without losing time or falling behind in their degree work,” Ketcham said.  “With the help of online courses, students can stay on track with their degree.  There is no need to stay an extra semester for a course that can be taken online while you’re doing an internship or something of that sort.”

Senior Audrey Stryker, a commuter, is planning to take three online courses next semester.

“I love the flexibility that [online courses] offer,” Stryker said.  “If I get into all the classes that I would like, I will only have to come to campus one day a week.”

Stryker explained the way that she is able to make online courses suit her scheduling needs.

“I don’t disagree that there are still strict deadlines for online coursework,” she said.  “I know that I need to complete my assignments in a timely manner.  But, I don’t think anyone would be adverse to me saying that online courses offer more scheduling flexibility.  I may still have a huge assignment due on Dec. 2.  That won’t change whether I take a class online or in a classroom.  But I do know that I don’t have to sit in class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:20 to 11:15 a.m. if I take an online course. That does change.”

Oswego State offers a variety of interactive distance learning courses, which are online. These courses range anywhere from Corporate Finance to the Psychology of Language.

“Oswego State’s intention behind online courses is not to overshadow the interactive experiences that are available in a classroom environment,” Ketcham said.  “Rather, they exist so that students’ educational experiences can be enhanced.”