Students Study Course On-Line Hook Up Modem, Dial Up FCCJ for Sociology

Article excerpt

It's 6:30 a.m. and Sharon Horton has a few minutes to herself.

Her husband just left for work and her four children, all under

the age of five, are still tucked snugly into their beds.

So she heads off to sociology class -- without leaving her home

in Jacksonville's Marietta section, without hiring a

baby-sitter. She simply flips on her computer, dials into the

Florida Community College at Jacksonville computer and starts

reading the week's lecture.

Horton is one of 19 students enrolled in Professor Bill

Nes-Smith's Introduction to Sociology course taught entirely via

computer, the first online class offered at FCCJ.

"It's hard for me to go to class all the time," said Horton, 25,

who has another baby -- maybe two -- on the way.

NesSmith's course allows her that needed flexibility as she

pushes toward her degree.

"I can do it on my own time," she said. "If I want to do it at

5 o'clock in the morning, I can."

The idea of an online course had been in the back of NesSmith's

mind for a few years. He heard about similar classes in other

parts of the country and the world, about different ways to

apply the new technology to education.

With FCCJ's non-traditional student population, this course is a

natural fit. Many FCCJ students have full-time jobs or have

young children at home and don't have time to travel to

regularly scheduled classes.

On Monday mornings, instead of standing before a lectern in a

sterile classroom at FCCJ's North campus, NesSmith can sit

behind his Macintosh computer, in a comfortable chair atop a

deep-red Oriental rug and hardwood floor. From there, he

teaches students he has never seen and may never see.

There are no tests in this class, just work turned in

electronically.

Sociology isn't the only thing they learn. Improved computer

knowledge is a byproduct.

The course uses an electronic bulletin board, which is similar

to its paper-and-tacks counterpart. …