Online Education Surges Forward In Oregon

Like other major universities nationwide, the University of Oregon is about to increase its online course opportunities. At this time, according to Jennifer Hernandez of The Daily Emerald, over 4,000 students have moved from the classroom to at least one of the 60 courses offered on the internet by UO. Kassia Dellabough, director of the Office of Professional Outreach and Development for Students, keeps a detailed eye on these statistics.

Dellabough was one of the first to teach an online course in 1997 and currently part of the group looking into increasing online education offered. Dellabough also is working with UO Senate on various policies related to assessment and academic quality. She's also looking toward some policies related to course delivery reviews.

"I have found that in many cases, students actually seem to get more engaged in some of the content," Dellabough said. "I may have stronger student to faculty dialogues via discussions and email than I might in an office meeting or larger class interactions."

The flexibility that online classes afford students is one of the common benefits agreed upon by computer classroom scholars. Although not having the personal interaction with professors and fellow students tends to make some students feel they are "on their own," others are extremely pleased with the convenience factor.

The University of Washington and the Oregon State University have both entered the online courses arena with full force. Both have received several awards for their programs, including spots on the prestigious U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Bachelor's Program. UO is already offering a master's degree program in Applied Information Management.

Lee Rumbarger is the director for the Teaching Effectiveness Program and is also working on expanding the scope of online education at UO. The TEP is offering several workshops this academic year about teaching "hybrid" courses — which are partly traditional, partly online — through its "Think Small, Teach Big" series.

"Teaching online may present additional teaching challenges, but it also gives us tools for overcoming those challenges," Rumbarger said.

More good news is in the making for Oregon's interstate distance education. The Oregon legislature is passing a bill, under the direction of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which will improve interstate agreements concerning reciprocity between colleges in different states. The bill will also improve the speed with which these kinds of agreements will be made.

OSU spends thousands of dollars each year on meeting other states' compliance regulations. The passing of this legislation would lower this expenditure allowing the university to invest more money into creating and supporting Oregon colleges' online courses.

Arkansas is one of the few states which has shied away from participating in these agreements with OSU. At this point, Arkansas will review only 10 programs per quarter. OSU has more than 30 programs, so they will be waiting for approval from the Arkansas Higher Education Commission for awhile.

Sean Bassinger of the Daily Barometer says, "Currently, OSU Ecampus offers more than 900 credit courses throughout an area of 80 subjects."

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