Six years ago the prospects of teaching an online class was a joke to urban studies professor Ward Thomas. Today as he teaches an introductory urban studies, to keep up with the demand of online classes, his views on online classes have changed.
‘Six years ago online classes sounded like a joke and something no one would take seriously,’ Thomas said. ‘Now there’s a huge demand for it, some departments and colleges are encouraging instructors to have class online because more students are asking for them.’
Thomas also sees the benefits not only for him, but his students as well.
‘It gives you more flexibility in terms of how you manage your time, you don’t have to be at any specific place or specific time or be at CSUN three days a week,’ he said.
‘A lot of students at CSUN work because they can’t afford to go to school full-time without working and online classes give them the flexibility they need.’
Online classes Thomas said, gives students who may be shy or lack scholastic confidence the opportunity to take a more active role in class.
‘Some students feel more comfortable participating in terms of discussions and asking questions through webct as compared with the classroom.’
Last spring Susan Lackie, a junior communications major, took an astronomy lab class took an online political science class’ the previous semester.
‘I took classes that would normally be really long like lab because I didn’t have the time to go to school,’ said Leckie who worked an average of 25 hours last spring.
‘Being in an actual classroom, there’s a lot more student discussion or debate.’ Leckie said.
While they’re really beneficial, she said, the possibility of cheating is also high.
‘The web is so open and you usually know what is going to be the test so it’s really easy to go online, open a book or ask someone whose around,’ Leckie said.
CSUN currently offers over 160 full online classes and they will only keep rising as they have in the past, said David Levin, senior director of academic technology. ‘Online courses have gained credibility over the years,’ Levin said.
Levin said that CSUN students can expect to take hybrid classes. These classes will meet on certain days and will be online on other days. Of all of the online classes these, he said, are proving to be the most popular.
‘They’re great because you can get the face to face that you need and all of the benefits of an online class.’
Levin has also noticed that as online courses are becoming more popular and respected so have online institutions.
‘The credibility of online institutions has gone up and part of that is because there are a lot of degree programs that are fully accredited,’ Levin said.
In 2007 Zogby, a prominent polling organization, found in a poll of more than 5,000 adults that 30 percent of them were taking or had taken an online course and an additional 50 percent said they would consider taking one.
In that same poll only 27 percent of respondents agreed that online universities and colleges provide the same quality education as traditional ones. Many of the participants also said that employers and academic professionals regarded traditional institutions more highly than online ones.
David Busse, former CSUN student and graduate of Phoenix University with a degree in business administration, disagrees and said that the skills he learned from the online university are skills he uses in his cell phone business everyday. Busse owns Airtime Wireless, which provides a wide variety of cell phone carriers.
‘I recommend it if you don’t have time because you have to go to school and you have to work,’ Busse said. ‘It takes a little longer but the fact that you can take it at your own pace is worth it.’
While at CSUN Busse had to choose between going to school or putting more time and effort into his cell phone business taking off at the time. Ultimately, the latter won. But while he was doing well, Busse felt guilty about not going to school and enrolled in the University of Phoenix, transferring his 98 units.
‘It’s flexible because you’re basically being able to go to class at two in the morning when your running your store or are at your business all day,’ Busse said. ‘Honestly even before I did it I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t they will fail you if you don’t do the work.’
It takes an independent and disciplined person to be successful in online classes, Roy Paras, a junior kinesiology major, said.
‘Online classes are easy, but it’s also easy to forget you have homework,’ Paras said. ‘But it’s also a lot easier to plagiarize and cheat.’
Thomas said that while this is true, he tries to combat cheating by putting a time limit on tests and quizzes. He admits it can be hard to control, either way he said there’s no stopping online classes now.
‘It’s going to be the wave of the future because there’s such a high demand for it,’ Thomas said.