UI sees increase in distance education


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More students are taking courses without ever stepping foot on campus.

The University of Iowa has seen an increase in students pursuing distance education. It currently offers 16 different degree programs through distance education.

“The programs are developed for a different audience,” said Anne Zalenski, the associate dean of the Division of Continuing Education. “They give access to students who wouldn’t be able to get a degree on campus because of their jobs, families, or for any reason.”

Marlys Boote, the senior director of enrollment management, said the UI increased its enrollment in online courses because of the way education has changed in the present age.

The number of students taking only distance education courses during the 2013-14 academic-year was 4,488, while the headcount for on-campus students taking at least one online course was nearly 8,000.

“We’re recognizing that there’s a demand for an online way of learning,” Boote said.

The UI College of Education has reformed its policies and expanded its technology services in order to make room for the effects of distance-education increases.

“We’ve just completed building a tech room in Lindquist Center,” said Nicholas Colangelo, the dean of the education school. “It’s an excellent state-of-the-art room in which you do distance education.”

The tech room is also being used to train faculty on how to teach online courses. 

“Now whenever we hire someone, the new part of the contract requires them to teach at least one online course,” Colangelo said.

More than a quarter of his faculty are teaching online courses, he said, and they’re “constantly talking about increasing online education and looking for more faculty to teach online.”

“Place-bound students can’t come to campus, and on-campus students find the [online] courses convenient,” Boote said. “They can listen to lectures more than once and can do things on their own time.”

Boote said although there has been some speculation that online courses are not equivalent to the classroom experience, from what the school has heard, the students who take online courses feel they’re content with the education they had received. 

“The answer is almost always yes,” Boote said. “Students who have enrolled in online courses feel they’ve learned just as much as they would have if they had taken a course on campus.”

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