For many college students, the task of getting out of bed and going to classes for five hours straight can seem challenging. Imagine doing it while also holding down two or more jobs, raising a family and having to commute 40 miles to class everyday. Luckily, those students dealing with these kinds of situations have an alternative.
In an increasingly digital age, online courses are becoming more and more commonplace with each passing year. National trends at both traditional and non-traditional campuses are showing that the chance to take online courses is becoming more popular with students nationwide.
“It’s an opportunity for them to enjoy higher education,” President Robert Vartabedian said. “The key word is access. They can sit in comfortable clothes at home and work on their education.”
Western began offering online courses during the administration of former President Janet Murphy who pushed hard for their inclusion. More than a decade later, Western now offers 33 different online courses.
Vartabedian states that Western has set a goal to offer 100 online courses within the next three years. While not all departments on campus offer online courses, Vartabedian hopes that they will move in that direction within the near future.
Michael Flowers is an instructor in the Department of Education. Over the last three years, he has personally taught over 200 students in online courses and he sees the online course option as a great opportunity.
“The convenience really attracts students,” Flowers said. “They can work wherever they decide to set up shop. There’s also a time element; you have your own time to work at your own pace. You’re not confined to 60 minutes.”
Vartabedian couldn’t agree more, arguing that online courses can be a perfect fit for today’s technologically savvy generation.
“Many students today are technologically inclined, so it’s a chance for them to use their technical skills,” Vartabedian said. “A really well taught online course should provide gateway to bigger things.”
Furthermore, Vartabedian feels that the addition on online education is consistent with the university’s mission to provide access to quality education for everyone.
“I always like to say that online courses are not always appropriate for everyone, but for some, it can be very beneficial,” Vartabedian said. “I’ve run into a number of students who said, ‘I wouldn’t have finished my degree without online courses.’”
Kelsey Corzine is a junior at Western. Starting this semester, she began taking an online course, Secondary Reading Techniques. She feels that the option of taking online courses is a great benefit for busy college students.
“I’m taking 16 credits and I’m really busy otherwise,” Corzine said. “This way, I can do them when I want to. You don’t have to worry about slowing [other students] down or vice versa; you can go at your own pace.”
Despite such success stories, Vartabedian cautions that online courses don’t allow for active university experiences and therefore shouldn’t become the norm over traditional classroom courses.
“I wouldn’t want to be known as a purely online university,” Vartabedian said. “Western will always be a traditional university, but we want the best of both worlds.”
From Flower’s perspective, it’s important for students to have face to face interactions with their instructors, which is something that online courses lack.
“When students have concerns, they have to call or e-mail whereas in class we can nail the problem down right there,” Flowers said. “Being able to [talk] eyeball to eyeball is a definite advantage in students’ favor.”
In an age where technology has become part of everyday life, the growth in online courses at universities and college campuses across the nation is bound to have success with those students who need such opportunities to complete their education and go on to bigger, brighter things.