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Keuka Introduces Online Gen Ed Courses

Finding a way to get that Gen Ed course off the decks during the summer just got easier for Keuka College students.

That’s because the College is rolling out six online courses students can take anywhere they have Internet access. The six undergraduate courses, all scheduled to run June 13 – Aug. 7, are:

Enrollment starts this week and a special web page has been set up at  http://blogs.keuka.edu/edtech/online-summer-courses/ with more details.

To create the new online courses for traditional students, the College followed the model already used in its Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) over the last two-and-a-half years.

Some adult students enrolling in one of Keuka’s ASAP degree programs need one to three “bridge courses” first to complete enough general education requirements to give them the equivalent of an associate degree before they enroll, said John Locke, director of instructional design and multi-disciplinary studies in the Wertman Office of Distance Education (WODE). Rather than “reinventing the wheel,” Locke said, he suggested customizing the online courses for adults to meet the needs of traditional students.

According to Tim Sellers, associate vice president for academic affairs, the online course offerings just provide a different “delivery format” of the same curriculum and grading structure students would encounter in a traditional classroom setting. The same professors who teach the traditional 15-week courses over a full semester will also teach the online courses, just in an eight-week time frame, he said.

Working hand-in-hand with WODE tech specialists familiar with the College’s distance-learning technology tool, known as Moodle, each instructor syllabus, grade book and assignments have been converted into interactive Moodle pages, Locke said.

“The instructor can focus on subject matter and doesn’t have to be an expert on computers or Moodle design,” Locke said.

One section of each course will be offered and, just like traditional courses, there are enrollment minimums and maximums. Unlike a correspondence course, where a student would simply complete all assignments independently and turn them in prior to a deadline, Sellers stressed that these classes will be highly interactive. Each week, students will be assigned reading homework, quizzes, papers and other tasks that would “normally happen in a class,” he said.

Locke added that Keuka incorporates a human factor into its online courses to help bridge the “digital divide” between student and instructor. In the week prior to the start of the online class, the professor makes one-on-one phone calls to each student. Not only does this help the student begin to become familiar with course requirements, he or she will likely feel more comfortable seeking help from the professor if needed. Further, the professor may have a better sense of when a student has not been heard from in a while and should be contacted again, Locke said.

Interactive class discussions will not be literal face-to-face video web cam sessions happening at a scheduled time, but will run in an “asynchronous” timeline, using an online technology known as a discussion thread, Sellers said. Students will have to meet requirements for the number of times they interact online with the professor and other students.

“‘Asynchronous’ means I might go in a Tuesday night and post some questions and comments and you come in Wednesday morning and post answers, and another student comes in Wednesday afternoon and I come back on Wednesday night,” Sellers described.  “Being [online] all at the same time isn’t a necessity.”

But keeping to the assignment schedule will be, given the intensive nature of the program.

“There is a lot of work in a short amount of time and you cannot take a week off,” Sellers stressed in campus-wide e-mail announcing the online courses.

After assessing how the initial offering goes, the College would like to expand the program next year and offer Gen Ed course credits online to non-Keuka students, he said. From there, the College may look at offering graduate courses online to ASAP students, and ultimately may even offer a Keuka degree solely via distance learning.

“We’re not trying to become the next University of Phoenix,” Sellers said with a chuckle, referring to the icon of distance-learning most Internet users have encountered in a variety of pop-up messages. “We feel there’s something unique about Keuka and its courses and the more opportunities we can give students to get their education in more flexible and different formats, the better off they’re going to be.”

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