After seeing an online class enrollment increase this fall, SIU is looking to offer more online courses in the next few years.
At her State of the University Address Sept. 5 and the Faculty Senate meeting Sept. 11, Chancellor Rita Cheng and others talked about how the university will seek to use more online classes because of technological advances in education.
This fall, students enrolled in online classes at SIU more than doubled from fall 2011.
“The higher education landscape is changing dramatically in terms of course delivery because of technology,” Cheng said.
Online course enrollment this semester is at 1,927 students, she said, which increased from 991 students last year. Cheng also said the number of online courses offered has increased from 79 to 118 this semester, and the university has generated $6 million in revenue from online education.
Cheng said a variety of learning models have sprung up in recent years, including massive open online courses, which are courses where students can access all of the resources they need online such as reading material.
“Our approach has been to embed online offerings into our academic core and expand the reach of our high-quality programs,” she said. “Our priorities are faculty oversight, quality, and student learning and completion.”
She said the university offers a certificate program, three bachelor’s degree programs, and four master’s degree programs online.
The increase of online classes has also received various criticisms from faculty members.
At the Faculty Senate meeting, members discussed the positive and negative effects of having more online classes available to the student body. Senators talked about the advantages of providing students with online access in cases where students need the convenience, but they displayed concerns that students would no longer care to go to class on campus.
“We’re trying to incentivize some development in those areas,” Provost John Nicklow said at the meeting. “We’re that far from having our entire core online and having an undergraduate studies major online, and for programs like business who have to send their students elsewhere to get the core, it’s very discouraging. We need to close that gap and core online, and I believe it will open up some additional doors here.”
Gayla Stoner, program director for the Office of Distance Education and Off-campus Programs at SIU, said the number of online courses is expected to increase again from the 118 available this semester.
Stoner said a survey published in 2011 found that more than 6 million students took at least one online course in fall 2010.
She said the same faculty members who teach classes on campus teach online courses at the university, thus students receive the same education as they would in a faculty member’s classroom. She also said there is research that indicates online students are more engaged in their courses.
Paige Gautreaux, a senior from New Iberia, La., studying accounting, said she is excited about the prospect of having a majority of her classes online.
She said she would like to take all online classes so she could avoid parking issues and conflicts with her work schedule.
“As students request more online courses, we expect that the number of online courses will continue to grow,” Stoner said.
Angel Calvillo, a junior from Chicago studying physics, said he is is in favor of an on-campus learning environment.
“People get lazy and don’t try to learn anything (when taking online classes),” Calvillo said.
He said he would prefer to come to campus for his classes but believes general education classes should be provided online.
Benjamin Beggs, a senior from Harrisburg studying exercise science, said he has taken an online class before and would like to see more courses provided to students. Though he supports online classes, he said he likes coming to campus for class.
“I prefer having the brick and mortar institutional learning,” Beggs said.
Stoner said an undergraduate online course is $344.17 per hour, plus a $3.00 fixed term fee at SIU. This is much lower than the on-campus flat rate of $933.87 followed by an additional $364.87 per hour. She said some classes have department or advisor restrictions on them.
The intent of online courses, Stoner said, is to provide flexibility and options to all students through technology. She said the online course increase would not replace on-campus courses.