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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Online college courses making the grade

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Paula Ann Mitchell writes, "Cody Naccarato is far from lazy.
In fact, the 20-year-old Kingston man is wired to get things done without anyone standing over him. Such was the case when he took online courses at Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge.

Tania Barricklo-Daily Freeman - Cody Naccarrato of Kingston took several classes through Ulster County Community College online at home to complete his degree in journalism.

There were no long-winded professors, oversized lecture othalls, peer distractions or cursory treatment of subject matter. He could work in the comfort of his home, at his own pace and save on commuting costs.

Still, the recent graduate looks back on the experience with a mix of praise and criticism. Over the course of his two-year study at UCCC, he took five online classes ranging from American history to media literacy.

“Overall, they were fine,” said Naccarato, who earned an associate’s degree in communications and journalism in May. “The problem with the courses is that they are (run by) old-school professors trying to adapt in a new environment. They try to use technology that doesn’t make sense in a course.
“I had an online class where everything had to be hand-delivered to a professor. Every assignment had to be typed up and brought in. He didn’t have to teach you (face-to-face), but you still had to do everything the traditional way,” he added.
Regardless, Naccarato is one of millions of American college students who has taken an online course. According to a 2013 study by the Babson Survey Research Group, the number of higher education students taking at least one online course now has surpassed 7.1 million. The 6.1 percent growth rate, though the lowest in a decade, still represents more than 400,000 additional students taking at least one online course, the report found.

Digital-based study, in fact, tends to attract students like Naccarato because of its flexibility and hands-on, up-close learning. That is especially the case for nontraditional students, who may be working full time and raising a family.

Similarly, the State University of New York at New Paltz has watched its onlne programs grow.
“Our summer online enrollments have averaged about 1,800-plus students and our winter enrollments are 300-plus,” said Philip Mauceri, provost and vice president for academic affairs at SUNY New Paltz. “The enrollments are mostly SUNY New Paltz students, but several non-matriculated students from other states have enrolled in select courses. Our students also have the opportunity of taking online courses from other SUNY schools through Open SUNY, easily transferring them into our college.”
Most of the university’s online courses during the regular academic year are “hybrid courses,” blending classroom instruction with online study, Mauceri said.
“This could involve everything from online assignments and discussion groups to ‘flipped’ classrooms, where the lectures are online and class time is reserved for discussions or hands-on activities.”
As college leaders continue to monitor the changing educational landscape, they say adaptability, particularly for teachers, is crucial. 
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Source: The Daily Freeman