Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Report: Online Courses More Prevalent in Public Schools

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Report: Online Courses More Prevalent in Public Schools

Article excerpt

The trend for higher education institutions offering online courses is increasing, a report by the Sloan Consortium shows. But anybody with any knowledge of technology, education or general trends could tell you that.

The report's surprising finding: More public institutions offer a greater number of online courses than private schools.

Sloan Consortium Executive Director John Bourne said it all comes down to different missions: Public schools are charged to serve the populations of a state or certain area, and private institutions are all about the face-to-face, intimate environment.

"State schools' missions are to provide more and better access, and online education offers that capability," Bourne said. "Many privates capitalize on so-called high-touch education. ... That kind of experience is hard to replicate on online education."

The Sloan Consortium helps higher education institutions integrate online and distance education into their curriculums, like Babson College in Massachusetts, where Bourne also teaches MBA courses. His online class has a unique aspect: It takes place virtually in Second Life, an online mass multiplayer virtual reality. Many universities across the country and world have set up private "islands" in the Second Life universe, where they host classes and forums using avatars. Bourne brings in a guest speaker from New Zealand once a week to address the virtual class, an opportunity not possible with traditional classes.

Second Life classes are the extreme side of online learning. But the trend still shows most Oklahoma universities and colleges increasingly offer some sort of online option for a number of their classes. Ben Hardcastle of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education said state colleges reported increases between 5 percent and double digits in the last year.

The experts have differing opinions on whether offering online courses is economically positive or negative for a university. Jeff Seaman, director of the Babson Survey Research Group that helped prepare the Sloan report, said the perceptions have shifted: When schools started to offer classes online, experts thought the institutions would save money because no classroom space was needed. …

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