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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Distance-learning saves time, resources”

    Students today are busier then ever before; and with a struggling economy, many cannot afford to waste more time or money than necessary on their way to earning their college diplomas.

    To aid in this, the UA offers roughly 220 Web delivered classes and other distance-learning programs for everyone from ambitious students looking to get ahead, to the full-time workers seeking an entire degree without ever setting foot in a classroom.

    Mike Proctor, Dean of the UA Outreach College said that the UA offers students online classes through a variety of different channels.

    “”A number of departments, over time, have developed online courses, which they offer fairly independently, directly (to students in) those departments,”” Proctor said. “”What used to be Extended University, and is now the Outreach College, also works with departments to offer courses online.””

    He said the call to increase the UA’s online and distance-learning class offerings came from an increasing demand from the departments within the UA, most notably nursing and library and information sciences.

    “”We have several degree programs online, mostly at the graduate level, but there is increasingly more interest in online accessibility,”” Proctor said. “”In both of those disciplines you had a group of faculty who were very interested in utilizing that technology.””

    Leslie Kent Kunkel, assistant director at the School of Information Resources and Library Sciences said that because the UA houses the only school of library sciences in the Southwest, they have students in the Middle East, Asia and England.

    “”We were one of the first to use the online course management software,”” Kent Kunkel said. “”We call ourselves one of the pioneers of distance-education in the library and information science field.””

    She said that the freedom of online learning allows student to do their schoolwork on their own schedule.

    “”A lot of our students work part-time, some work full time … all of our students are very busy,”” Kent Kunkel said. “”We try to offer courses and other learning experiences in different ways to accommodate how they would like to learn. One way is the virtual courses.””

    While online classes may be more convenient and efficient for students, Kent Kunkel said they do not necessarily translate to cheaper costs for the university.

    “”There is a huge benefit,”” she said. “”We’re able to get students who wouldn’t otherwise come to school for face-to-face courses. We’re able to offer courses to students who live in very rural areas, perhaps have family obligations, who work part-time or full-time, they could not take our program unless we offer virtual courses.””

    Sho Ikeda, a graduate student at the School of Informational Resources and Library Sciences, is working towards his masters by taking many courses online.

    “”The down side of it is that class discussions aren’t as dynamic. Since your posting to a discussion forum you’ve got the chance to think out your response and type it out,”” he said. “”I do like face-to-face classes because I like face-to-face classroom discussions.””

    Ikeda said in some ways online classes are easier, because students do not have to actually go to campus to take their courses. However, he said they can be harder for the same reason.

    “”They’re harder because you don’t go to campus for class,”” Ikeda said. “”You have to be very self motivated to log into D2l, which is what we use to organize classes, check the discussion forum and see who has posted something new, and to make sure you do your part to add to the discussion.””

    As the demand for non-traditional, distance-based education continues to grow, Proctor said, the UA will do what it can to provide alternate methods of learning.

    “”The most important thing is that as the U of A ventures into this area, we want to define ourselves as one of the highest-quality providers,”” Proctor said. “”We don’t want to be in the business of just putting content out there. We only want to deliver subject matter and expertise that speaks the quality of a research-one, AAU, land-grant university.””

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