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Saturday, November 09, 2019

More UMaine System Students Are Taking Degree Courses Online. That Concerns Some Educators |

For some students in Maine, college this fall might look a lot different than it did 10 years ago, reports Robbie Feinberg, Education News Producer

Jason Ennis works on an online class from his office at MMG Insurance in Presque Isle.
Photo: Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public
The state's university system has boosted online courses by nearly 30 percent over the past five years. 

And it's now partnering with an outside firm to market and expand its offerings even further. But the push to reach more adult students comes with new challenges.
Some days, Jason Ennis gets to his office at MMG Insurance in Presque Isle really early, when no one's yet around. He'll pull out his laptop and launch an online learning platform that he's using to earn a business degree from the nearby University of Maine at Presque Isle.

"At lunch time, during my one hour lunch, I'll try to squeeze in half an hour of work a day, if I can," he says. "And whenn finals are due, if I'm not all caught up, like this week, I'll have to take a day or two off just to wrap it up...

Jim McClymer, a professor and president of the university system's faculty union, says he's encouraged that the new initiatives have started out relatively small, and that administrators have talked with professors and helped them with training. But he does have concerns that online learning might squeeze out more and more in-person options.

"There is value in face-to-face, and it can look economically appealing to, say, let them all go to online," McClymer says. "And that could be damaging to students who are here, who want that and should have that direct experience with the faculty."