Students, faculty differ on online courses

Since their inception last July, online courses at USF ECampus have become increasingly popular among students.

Kathleen Moore, executive director of USF ECampus, said 2,000 course sections were offered online in the 2008-09 academic year.

“Over the year we had 84,000 enrollments in online courses at USF,” Moore said. “That means that we have had 84,000 instances of a person registering for a course. Some of them could be registering for two or three courses.”

However, some USF professors said the trend is not entirely positive for academic

Robin Ersing, assistant professor of the School of Social Work, said one of the challenges with online courses is that the personal connection with students can
be lost.

“It forces teachers to be more creative with the lessons,” she said.

Online classes are becoming a trend among students because they allow them to multitask, Ersing said. The courses also offer students more readily available information, which can stimulate their interest.

“One advantage is that the online courses are accessible on a schedule that is more convenient than a scheduled classroom course,” Moore said. “The faculty are also no longer constrained to their scheduled classroom times.”

Robert Mertzman, a physical education instructor, said that from the teaching
perspective, there is a lot more work with online courses, but it is extremely rewarding.

“You factor away many of the gender stereotype issues,” he said. “It’s really interesting that the people who never speak up in a traditional classroom are more active and those who talk your ear off are restrained in a written format.”

With online courses, Mertzman said every student has equal footing and has access to all the same content.

Moore said ECampus helps faculty develop online curriculum efficiently to achieve the highest quality experience for students.

She said the faculty decides which courses are offered online.

Moore said the ECampus has existed in different forms for many years.

“There are three units that form ECampus,” she said. “They are the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence, Continuing Education and Metro Initiatives.”

Moore said that there are hundreds of courses from all colleges at USF offered online.

“The online class may be a very good thing if the subject and the teacher lends itself to a distance education,” Mertzman said. “There are certain kinds of subjects that would seem very difficult to do at a distance setting.”

He also said that as technology improves, more subjects can be presented online

Despite the increase in enrollment in online classes, some students prefer to be taught in the classroom.

“It’s just not for me,” said Stephen Hanewinckel, a junior majoring in microbiology. “There are too many distractions at home for me to take an online class. It’s very personal to be in the classroom learning the material.”

Hanewinckel said, however, he could see why online courses are popular because of their convenience.

“It’s fine for an English or history class, but something like engineering – it wouldn’t really work,” said Joe Pishnery, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. “It’s not
something you can really learn on your own.”

Mertzman said some students do well with online courses and others are better off in the classroom.

“I think it is important to know the type of student you are,” he said. “With online courses, I’m for some of them, but others may not be suitable to do online.”