With the growing enrollment, many students have had the experience of being stuck circling around the parking lot for 20 minutes trying to find a spot for their car or being on so many waiting lists when they were registering for classes that they forgot which ones they needed in the first place.
The Distance Education program, however, is here to help fight this challenge of overcrowding. Even though roughly 6,000 students are linked to this program, many still don’t know exactly what it is.
Distance Education offers three alternatives to the standard face-to-face format classes. First, there are online classes where students complete the curriculum via Blackboard. The second option is the live interactive broadcast classes where there are many classes around the state who are participating in a single lecture using video technology. Television courses represent the last option where students are given a list of assignments that they must do and they complete these assignments on their own time throughout the semester.
Here the Distance Education program is not necessarily about a physical distance; it is about opportunity and accessibility.
“We are providing an opportunity for someone who just got swept out of a regular face-to-face class or providing flexibility to someone’s schedule who just couldn’t get into a certain class during a certain time,” says Dan Clark, the senior director for the program.
Junior Jon Valdez is grateful for the program’s online classes for this very reason. It offers him the flexibility he needs while working full time to pay for school.
With the ability of this program to support many more students comes the challenge of decreased interaction with teachers. LeAnne Arnold and Ginger Rivera face this in their Math 1010 class, which is a live interactive course.
“Ginger likes to ask a lot of questions,” Arnold said. Rivera added, “And you aren’t allowed to ask a lot of questions.”
Freshman Skyler VanSweden agrees with this, saying there isn’t a whole lot of one on one time with the teacher.
Clark recognizes this problem, and has begun to take actions to help students get the most out of these classes. This year they hired dedicated tutors for the biology and math courses, whom students can contact for any help they might need. Rivera said that some of the teachers can also be a big help when approached after class.
“The teacher is awesome,” she said about her Math 1010 teacher. “He’ll stay after; [he] will really try to help you.”
When it comes down to it, most students agree that even though there are some disadvantages to distance education classes, they are worth taking. They allow students to continue their education instead of getting stuck because there were not enough spaces to go around in the courses they needed.