At Weber State University, a student can earn a degree and barely ever set foot on campus. Nine degrees are currently available to WSU students online. Individual departments choose if they want their courses to be online as well as in a physical classroom.
“I think it’s convenience, flexibility,” said Brian Stecklein, the associate dean for continuing education at WSU. “We have students that have a lot of things going on in their lives. Weber State University has a lot of what people would say are nontraditional students.”
Nontraditional students are classified as students who are either 25 or older, are currently or have previously been married, are veterans, or are disabled.
“They are trying to balance all of those things, so they are looking for ways to fit all of that into their schedule,” Stecklein said, “especially those people that are employed.”
The technical sales department might soon have its degree available online as well.
“We will try and get it fully designated,” said Jo Ellen Jonsson, a professor in the technical sales department. “Nothing is set yet.”
The classes for technical sales can all be taken online, with students only having to come to campus twice. The department conducted a survey and found that 90 percent of the students in the major are working.
“A large majority take online classes,” Jonsson said. “The online classes fill up first.”
Jonsson said the classes she teaches online and in the classroom are similar to each other. She said she is planning on filming her lectures in the classroom for online students in the future.
Stecklein said it takes more self-discipline to take an online class than to take a class on campus. There isn’t a designated class time, so students choose when they do what is required for the course. There are still deadlines in which tests must be taken or assignments need to be turned in, however.
“They have to set aside time, and I think that can be a challenge for some students,” Stecklein said.
Jim Hutchins, a professor in the health sciences department, teaches the biomedical core course online. He records his lectures and puts them online in 10-minute videos for his online students to watch. The courses are organized into modules, which are broken down into learning objectives, with a video for each learning objective.
“Our aim is to try to make the online courses as close in experience as the face-to-face as possible,” Hutchins said. “. . . That allows the student who is taking online (courses) to break their day up into little bits. We find that a lot of online students appreciate that because they maybe have child care duties, or they have jobs. That smaller piece fits into their schedule a little better.”
The online videos accompanying these courses can be downloaded onto iPods or iPads.
WSU student Justin O’Connor took a personal finance class online over the summer. He said he’s planning on taking another online class during the fall. O’Connor said figuring out a teacher’s style is harder with an online class, but that he would definitely take more classes online.
“It’s a little more difficult,” he said. “You can’t ask as many questions.”