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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Students want more online classes

Photo Illustration by Trisha Sprouse / Daily Sundial

Despite an increase nationwide in online enrollment this past year – 10 percent according to a 2011 report by the Sloan Consortium – the amount of online classes offered at CSUN has remained the same.

“This past fall CSUN offered 155 online classes, which represents 2.7 percent  of all classes,” said David Levin, senior director of academic technology, based on data obtained from the Office of Institutional Research.

Levin said this has been consistent over the past several years, but is up 1.9 percent of courses since fall 2007.

There are no university rules about what courses are offered online, according to Levin.

“Each department determines what courses within its program should be offered online,” Levin said. “In my experience, one of the major determining factors is student demand.”

Cecil Butler III, a senior majoring in history, said he wishes CSUN would offer more classes online.

“I think that if there were more online classes, it would be easier for many students to find classes that fit their schedules and graduate on time,” Butler said.

Butler, who works an average of 35 hours a week, said he has been taking online classes since he started college because he can fit them into his schedule rather than having to fit his schedule around his classes.

“Online classes make it much easier to handle a full academic load while maintaining some sanity in my life,” Butler said.

However, Butler also pointed out that online classes do carry disadvantages.

“They require complete focus and organization. If you forget about a week, you can find yourself seriously behind,” said Butler.

Senior English major Theresa Shreffler, who works two jobs and takes online classes in order to maintain regular work hours, also wishes CSUN would offer more online classes.

“I wish that CSUN offered online alternatives for all of their classes with the exception of workshops, art classes and senior seminars,” Shreffler said. “I learned just as much in my online classes as I did in person, and it was material that I had to guide myself through, which increased my confidence and study skills.”

Nancy Taylor, professor of English and humanities, also believes that CSUN should offer more courses online.

“Students thrive in virtual learning environments, and with more students having to work full-time jobs, online courses offer them more options,” Taylor said.

But Taylor did point out that online classes may not be for everyone.

“There is a small percentage of students who struggle with self-motivation, and they don’t perform as well in the online environment,” Taylor said.

Taylor, who co-wrote a book with professor Pat Swenson titled “Online Teaching in the Digital Age,” said she prefers teaching online because students are able to interact more with the material.

“Technology opens up so many new worlds, literally allowing me to have an endless intellectual environment to share with my students,” Taylor said. “We can go on virtual tours of some of the most famous museums in the world, places some students may never have a chance to visit in person.”

Tiffany Nakawatase, a junior liberal studies major, said she enjoys the convenience of online classes because she can do assignments anywhere.

“All you really need is a computer and text book,” Nakawatase said.

Aside from the flexibility of online courses, cost efficiency is another benefit for student Janet Smith, a junior majoring in English, who has taken four classes online at CSUN.

“I don’t have to drive to campus or pay for parking,” Smith said.

Shreffler echoed this sentiment, pointing out that online classes cut down on commute times and expenses such as gas and parking.

“Sometimes, the hardest part of in-person classes can be attending the class,” Shreffler said. “Some students like myself commute almost an hour to get to campus — with no traffic. Parking on campus can also be a nightmare at peak hours.”

Levin said there was no detailed analysis available from Institutional Research regarding the cost difference between online classes and on-campus classes, but he estimated that online courses cost no more than classes that meet on campus.

At present, the departments who offer the largest number of online classes include the sociology, religious studies and geography departments, according to Levin.

“I think online classes are the way of the future, and will become absolutely essential in the coming century — essential for our environment, for our growing population, and for a heightened learning experience,” Shreffler said.

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