The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN online program puts 70 courses on fall schedule

Work, convenience, freedom, gas prices; students have many reasons for taking online classes.

Sascha Jones, sophomore English and psychology major, works 40-plus hours a week, has a fianc?, a new puppy to take care of, and typically takes 18 units during the regular semester. With her busy schedule, Jones finds online classes very convenient.

“Even though you have to teach yourself … it’s easier for me to concentrate,” said Jones, who will be taking five out of the nearly 70 online courses offered at CSUN this fall.

Jones started taking online courses in Spring 2005 and is one of many CSUN students who do it.

The online course program arose out of the rubble of the 1994 Northridge earthquake when a CSUN faculty member saw the need for an alternative to in-class instruction should the campus ever succumb to another disabling earthquake or other disaster, according to Randal Cummings, director of online instruction at CSUN.

The program started about eight years ago with classes that had an online component, but were not entirely online, he said.

“A year later, we went to the first fully online courses,” Cummings said.

Initially, 10 courses were offered in a variety of disciplines.

Today’s online courses number around 150 throughout the academic year, according to Cummings. Many of the online courses are offered in general education, although some non-G.E. courses are offered as well.

The Geography Department offers its 300 course, a requirement for the major, solely online.

“The Geography Department has really jumped on (online courses) big time,” Cummings said. Geography is offering 14 online classes this fall, more than any other department.

“Geography tends to be technology motivated,” said Antonia Hussey, chair of the Geography Department. The department began offering courses online in 2001, and they typically fill very quickly, according to Hussey.

“I think the reason for that is many of our students work,” she said, adding that flexibility for students who work plays a large part in why they choose online courses.

Although most online courses give students added flexibility and require more personal accountability, Hussey said she finds that the grading curve for online classes closely resembles that of, what she calls “brick and mortar classes.”

For Jones, online courses allow her do her own thinking and to do class work based on her own schedule.

Online courses also offer professors a certain level of academic freedom, according to Cummings. Although instructors can utilize WebCT, a learning management program with quizzes, chat rooms and other online course resources, they also have the option to create their own web-based classrooms.

CSUN pays approximately $40,000 a year for the use of WebCT, in addition to costs associated with departmental staff and Internet technicians.

Although students cannot obtain their degrees entirely through online classes at CSUN, the office of online instruction hopes to one day be able to offer such a program.

Cummings said.

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