Online courses at EU

The option of taking online classes is not yet available to students of the College of Arts and Sciences, but a team of faculty members and administrators has formed to discuss and plan for the implementation of these changes.

The group of twelve, known as the Distance Education Task Force, meets about every week. According to Provost Dr. David King, they are in the early stages of planning distance education for the CAS with the goal of developing a strategy to present to the Board of Trustees by October.

According to Diana Bacci, Vice President for Administration and university registrar, “The Board is very interested in moving the university forward, but with intentionality and caution.”

Online classes for select courses have been offered for some time at the Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies, including a recent Masters of Education degree program. However, a number of preparations must be made before distance education becomes a reality for CAS.

According to Bacci, some CCGPS faculty members use a program called Wimba for certain online classes. Students and professors use webcams and headsets to create a virtual classroom. A number of CAS faculty members have been trained in using Wimba, but it has not yet been used for a CAS class.

“Dynamics are a little different in an online setting,” Bacci said, and for this reason, faculty development is a key element being considered by the task force. CAS faculty members must receive various kinds of training before teaching online courses.

The teaching methodologies for online courses are different than a classroom environment. “Not only is teaching different, but everyone is not as qualified to teach in an online environment. We want to offer an excellent student experience,” Bacci said.

The task force expects that with distance education, student enrollment will increase. In this scenario, offices such as the Registrar’s office must be prepared to handle a greater number of students.

Staff members must also be available to help long-distance students if they call with any technical difficulties.

King anticipates that distance education will be advantageous for students in several ways. To earn additional credits, CAS students will be able to take online courses over the summer. This may “accelerate your ability to complete college in three years instead of four years,” King said.

Students who are attending community college with the intention of transferring to Eastern will be able to accumulate Eastern credits before they transfer.

Additionally, Eastern degrees would be available to students living far from the campus.
By introducing distance education, Eastern will be able to reach out to those who do not have the option of traveling to campus.

“Eastern’s mission is to transform your life,” King said. “If you can’t come to Eastern, we can’t do that.”

When online classes begin to take shape, Bacci said, “We don’t in any way want to dilute the rich experience that happens on ground.”

King’s hope is that Eastern will change “as little as possible” when CAS distance education is put into action. Hopefully the university is able to “maintain central elements of who Eastern is,” he said.


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