Online education courses offer opportunities for students

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 at 9:39 PM

Throughout the years, Edinboro University’s online education program has provided students increased convenience when it came to pursuing multiple majors and courses directly from their computers and has contributed to expanding the academic opportunities Edinboro has to offer.

The idea of Edinboro’s online education program was first implemented in 2004 by early childhood and reading professor Linda Best.

Best developed the first online course for the graduate reading program, and served as the director of the “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology Research Grant.” The four-year research grant funded the development of the online education program, along with technology training for Edinboro University faculty and students.

“The grant changed the culture of the university [and allowed them] to think more deeply about the impact that technology has to expand learning opportunities for everyone,” said Best.

Best also shared that, according to properly launch a successful online education program, faculty, mostly those who served on the PT-3 grant board, underwent extensive training in technology.

“I recall that era, [before the online program] as one of restructuring that included how we [faculty] thought about teaching and assessing online,” remarked Best.

During the initial developing stages of the online education program, the PT-3 grant board hired an instructional designer, Cori Dungan, to aid in training faculty and staff in online education.

“We formed training sessions that enabled faculty to develop and design online courses. Together we set goals for training sessions that helped faculty model, apply and integrate technology into all areas of their courses when appropriate,” said Best.

Additionally, manager of online programs and instructional design, Dr. James Boulder, leads the design and support components of all online courses and programs offered at Edinboro.

Boulder is also an instructor of a 5-week teaching online certification course; which is offered to faculty at several state universities, including: Bloomsburg University, Clarion University, Edinboro University, Kutztown University, and Shippensburg University.

Boulder shared that the certification course trains online faculty to explore national standards and best practices for online instruction, developing engaging online course materials, learning how to use various learning management system tools, and experiencing the online instruction from a student’s perspective.

The special certification course “continuously evolves” with the collaborative efforts of the distance education staff from the participating universities, and was recently awarded Quality Matters certification in October.

Currently, the online program offers over80 undergraduate courses and 20 graduate programs. The availability and format of online undergraduate programs vary each semester, while all graduate programs are available year-round; however, both online education programs are constantly developing.

“Our online graduate programs have grown in number, with additional new disciplines currently under development,” said Boulder.

Boulder also shared that the recently launched online business administration degree is Edinboro’s first online undergraduate program.

In addition to the development of online academic programs, the online education program has utilized a variety of online education platforms, such as WebBoard, WebCT, Blackboard, E-College, and, the current online platform, D2L.

“Each platform was evolving with the infusion of technology into education that included tools that were more fluid and sophisticated,” said Best.

Best also shared that a common concern regarding online education is how it compares to on-campus education.

“Some students really prefer the face-to-face classes, while others prefer the online courses. Research will state that it depends on the learning styles and time management skills of the learners,” stated Best.

However, the online education program has affected Edinboro’s graduation rate and students who struggle to balance work, family and education, according to its supporters.

“Online programs can eliminate geographic limitations. They can provide flexibility
to allow individuals with work and family commitments access to a myriad of academic and vocational opportunities,” said Boulder.

Professor Best also commented on the flexibility of Edinboro’s online education program, and the success the program has had.

“I believe the expansion of online masters and certification programs at EU says it all. The data is quite impressive with the amount of students who are enrolled in online programs. They allow for flexibility, rigor and opportunity in attaining professional and personal goals,” added Best.

Additionally, Best and Boulder both shared that the online education program is still developing and will continue to improve as technology advances. The online education faculty is currently working on releasing a new method of providing feedback within the online learning environment and is focusing on integrating media and instructional content.

For more information about Edinboro’s online education program, or to apply for the online program, visit edinboro.edu and search “online education.”

Also, students currently scheduling for the winter 2015 or spring 2016 academic semesters, and wishing to enroll in an online course, are advised to speak with their academic advisors. 

Macala Leigey is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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