CAS online courses continue to increase

The College of Arts and Sciences has more than doubled its summer online course offerings since 2010, at which time 24 online courses were offered.

By this summer, 51 classes will be offered. Larry LaFond, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the college has been “at the forefront” of recent increases in online courses, “particularly during the summer.”

LaFond said he thinks there are a lot of reasons for the increase, one of which is faculty becoming more comfortable with an online teaching environment.

“We have been putting an intentional emphasis on these kinds of courses from a college standpoint so that we can help people progress toward graduation in a timely fashion and try to reduce the number of impediments that might be there for them being able to take courses during the summer,” LaFond said.

Available courses range from freshman seminars to graduate level courses in departments ranging from art and chemistry to English, foreign language and geography.

English language and literature professor Seran Aktuna has taught online classes since 2007. Online teaching, according to Aktuna, is “quite difficult if you really want to have an effective teacher online without that face-to-face interaction.”

“You do have to plan everything more so than you would in the face-to-face situation,” Aktuna said.

Chemistry professor Robert Dixon, who has taught online courses for almost a decade, said the chemistry department offers “virtually” every 100 and 200 level chemistry class online. He also said the increase in online courses has been great.

“My feeling is that I’m teaching at the same quality, the same level, that I teach during the fall semester,” Dixon said, “So in terms of the class not being as rigorous, I don’t think that’s the case at all.”

Foreign language professor Tom Lavallee will teach his first online course, Introduction to Chinese Culture, this summer. He has taught the class in a traditional setting for 10 years, and said it is “practically an online class already.”

Lavallee said he thinks it is good to approach online courses cautiously and to continue studying research that “looks at the effectiveness of these types of learning environments.”

“I think [online teaching] needs to be evaluated on a regular basis for teachers to really figure out whether or not that the level of education, the quality of education, can be retained once you go into online environment,” Lavallee said.

Sharon McGee, chair of the English Language and Literature department, who began online teaching last spring, said the increase in online courses means SIUE is “aware of changing trends and demographics in higher education.”

A benefit of increasing online courses is that it helps with space issues due to the university’s increasing enrollment, LaFond said.

The online focus has been in the summer, according to LaFond, because students are on campus during the fall and spring semesters.
“We’re not really trying to serve the person in an online environment, the person who doesn’t want to get up out of Evergreen [Hall] and just wants to sit in their room and do the course,” LaFond said. “We don’t see that as really all that advantageous. If the students are sitting in the residents halls, we prefer to bring them together and have the course face to face.”

LaFond said the college is looking into expanding more online courses to the regular academic year as well, but “SIUE is not going to become the University of Phoenix.”

“I think most instructors still believe there’s nothing that quite compares to the face-to-face experience in the classroom and would prefer to teach in that mode for most of the courses,” LaFond said. “Nevertheless, we see that the online course offerings meet a specific need, and we want to be responsive to meeting that need.”

Some online are completely online, and others, according to LaFond, are “hybrid,” where students may need to be on campus “for one or more sessions.”

The College of Arts and Sciences has focused on supporting online education for the last decade.

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