STAFF EDITORIAL: Online courses must reflect university prestige

Butler University’s recent expansion of classes offered online has compelled the staff of The Butler Collegian to express our hopes, concerns, and thoughts about the matter.

More than 50 total classes designated as online or a hybrid of in class and online will be offered throughout the summer by Butler.

These classes come from various academic disciplines, including titles such as Principles of Microeconomics, Spanish Pronunciation and Global Women among many other offerings.

The Collegian staff expects these developments represent a good and exciting shift into the next frontier of academia, but has certain reservations about this decision.

While offering online classes this summer will reach students who live far away and out-of-state that still desire to advance their education, it may also change the makeup of the Butler community.

Increased access to online courses could mean Butler will attract more commuter students or those who do not wish to actively engage with students who live on campus.

The Collegian staff also wonders about the impact of online classes on our transcripts and degrees. Will future educational opportunities and employers look fondly on business students who learn the principles of microeconomics online?

Additionally we recognize online classes may make it more difficult to receive beneficial feedback from our professors.

Online learning might seem to provide instantaneous student-teacher interaction. But online-only classes could pose problems for students who live far away, in that such students may not have the ability to attend a professor’s office hours—if the professor of an online-only course chooses to offer them.

But despite all of these possible obstacles to maximizing students’ learning potential via a Butler degree, we recognize that most problems could and should be anticipated by students choosing to take the courses and the professors offering the courses.

Butler professors must administrate online courses in a touch-and-go fashion. Professors should experiment with new and alternative learning methods and styles using online platforms, but be ready to immediately adapt to student responses.

And online classes should allow professors to take advantage of student feedback in a way that traditional lecture-hall classes could not accomplish. Different types of assignments, tests and metrics could be used to assess student development that cannot be easily understood elsewhere.

The Collegian staff suggests that students pursue online elective courses and core curriculum requirements with greater priority than major-specific requirements. While the opportunity to satisfy introductory level courses for a given major may seduce students away from this suggestion, The Collegian believes students need to focus on and actively attend classes for their majors in order to receive the full Butler experience.

We are excited about the opportunities online classes provide students who are studying abroad, in Washington, D.C., or have to take a semester off because of illnesses or financial constraints. We think online classes will likely benefit the university and students and make scheduling classes somewhat less awful.

Online education at Butler appears to be a good idea in general, but it must not come at the cost of the identity and legacy of this proud and venerable school.

 

*Please direct all questions and responses to EIC Colin Likas at clikas@butler.edu

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