Online courses a possibility

Faculty Senate gathered today to discuss issues concerning the School of Continuing Education and how it is affecting enrollment of on-campus students.

In his arguments, chemistry professor Jonathan Blitz looked over the School of Continuing Education budgets from 2005 to 2010. From there, Blitz compared these numbers to the Academic Affairs budget.

“There’s a perception that the college of education is taking on a larger role in competing for resources for academic programs,” Blitz said.

From 2007 to 2010, the School of Continuing Education had a substantial increase in funds through its budget. In fact, while the Academic Affairs budget only increased 10 percent, the School of Continuing Education had an increase of 36.8 percent.

In 2010; 30,000 student credit hours were generated through the School of Continuing Education.

From that, the School of Continuing Education saw revenue of $6.9 million in 2010 with an additional $2.3 million, which came from Academic Affairs, with a total cost of $3.3 million.

This is a conservative estimate by Blitz, who then looked at the courses being offered on campus and the goals for students.

The college offers an outreach program for the students seeking to continue their higher education, according to the School of Continuing Education mission statement. Many of the courses offered to through the School of Continuing Education are general education courses or senior seminars.

While these courses may be offered through their departments, they are also offered through the School of Continuing Education.

The School of Continuing Education courses are competing with the courses that are taught through departments, Blitz said.

Blitz said if there is potential harm to the university in the process, then faculty members have to keep this within their spectrum.

“An online course competes with a course that’s on campus,” Blitz said. “A student can sit in their dorm or in their apartment in Charleston and take that online course, never having to go onto campus.”

Blitz urged the Faculty Senate to consider the academic quality of these courses.

Jeff Stowell, associate professor of psychology and senate member, has taught online courses and agrees with Blitz’s concerns.

“The first year I taught an online course, it was delivered through the department,” Stowell said. “I have seen a shift in the enrollment from predominantly off-campus adult learners to students on campus who may not be able to fit the course into their schedule.”

Blitz said on average 10 percent of credit hours come from the School of Continuing Education.

John Best, professor of psychology and senate member, said the Council of Academic Affairs has made the course selection more difficult.

Another concern raised by the senate was the fact that if courses are not available to a student, they may enroll in the course at another institution, which in turn causes Eastern to lose money.

Best said in the future there may be options for an entire program to be online.

“There’s going to come a day that if we’re not doing it, students are going to take it some place else,” Best said.

The courses should be taught through the department instead of the School of Continuing Education, Blitz said

Jonathan Coit, a history professor and senate member, agrees with Blitz that there has to be academic quality when choosing the courses to present online.

“We have to be concerned about academic quality,” Coit said. “If we’re going to offer these courses online, we have to make sure we do it right.”

Jennifer Brown can be reached 581-7942 or [email protected].