University to offer more courses online

By Lisa Chung

For students struggling to juggle their classes, work and extracurricular activities, the University may have a solution: online courses.

The University offers about 50 undergraduate online courses through guided individual program study, said Deborah Windes, visiting program director for distance learning. The program is continuous and can be taken by any student during any nine-month interval.

“Online courses enable flexibility in terms of your schedule,” said Monica Bielski Boris, an associate professor of labor studies. “It helps students who have other commitments and allows them to work at their own pace.”

Starting next semester, the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University will offer three online courses of three credits each for University students through Compass.

These courses are the first of 15-20 online courses the institute expects to design in the next three years, said Steve Ashby, a clinical associate professor for the institute. The goal is to initiate an online bachelor’s degree program open worldwide.

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“We would like to attract a global audience … markets are global, businesses are global,” said Bob Bruno, director of the labor studies program and a professor of labor studies. “If we put (the degree) online, we would attract working class adults who don’t get the opportunity to physically get on a college campus. It would give us global reach.”

The increasing availability of online courses has become a “movement across the country,” Windes said. The need for college education has expanded, and online courses make it easier for those working jobs to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

“Lots of people don’t have the flexibility to come to a college campus and this allows them to work from home,” Windes said. “Even for the traditional student, it’s getting harder to finish (college) in four years. Online courses allow students to complete some hours even before they get here.”

The structure of the online courses varies little from traditional courses, each having a specific instructor, syllabus, assignments and discussions, Boris said. A main difference is that there is no set class time on a daily basis.

Many times, participation in discussions online is a required part of the course, Ashby said.

“Online education offers some things that you can’t get in the classroom,” Windes said. “In an online course, it can be more active learning.”