Online courses grow in popularity, provide flexibility

Part-time student Jennifer Leal can maintain her full-time job in Kendall because of the online program through UM’s Bachelor of General Studies degree.

“If it wasn’t for this program and the flexibility of online classes, I don’t think I would be in school, especially one like UM,” she said.

The Division of Continuing Studies and International Education (DCIE) administers 11 online courses that fulfill the university’s general requirements. Currently 90 students are enrolled in online classes through DCIE, according to Craig Wilson, the executive director for the Online College Program.

UM began offering online courses two years ago, originally intended only for students in the BGS program. However, according to Wilson, the courses officially became open to the general student body last summer.

“Students expressed a desire,” he said. “The office is looking into continuing this next semester.”

The online options are only available for the first two years of the BGS program and then students are required to attend physical classes, usually during the evening, on a part-time basis.

Students’ motivation for enrolling in online courses is flexibility, said Wilson. The courses are offered year-round.

Students like sophomore Nour Ghaddar believe that more online classes can help students adapt to the future of education.

“People want to get the feel of a more technologically driven world,” she said. “It also benefits those with jobs and internships.”

However, online courses may benefit certain students more than others, said Mildred Triana, an academic advisor for the College of Arts and Science.

“It takes someone who is responsible to go online daily to post and respond to discussions,” she said.

In comparison to other schools, however, UM does not have a complete undergraduate online degree program. It does not offer courses beyond the introductory level.

In Florida, the University of Florida has a distance-learning program in which bachelor’s in health, business and criminology can be earned. Florida State University also has undergraduate programs in computer science and public safety and security.

Recognized universities in the Ivy League system have also developed limited degree programs. Columbia University provides opportunities to earn a Master of Science or Professional Degree through online courses.

Distance-learning, a formal term for online classes, also continues to evolve with the appearance of iTunes U. This allows users to download free university lectures in the same way that users can access music and videos.

Wilson hopes to expand on online offerings by drawing on examples from the established programs at other institutions.

“We have our eyes on things that are bigger,” he said. “It has been good to be in the middle of the pack because we can cherry-pick the best benchmarks to expand our online program.”