The growth of online education in higher ed shows no signs of slowing, with schools of all sizes forging ahead with remote learning initiatives, some of them experimental.
In California, for example, the state is launching a free online community college called Calbright, which will offer noncredit classes aligned to skills requested by area companies, reports Education Dive. Starting this fall, Calbright will offer three academic pathways — medical coding, information technology support and cybersecurity—and has hired a staff of about a dozen part-time professors, Education Dive reports.
At Murray State University in Kentucky, the board of regents just approved five new online programs to start next year, according to The Murray Ledger & Times. Four are within the school’s College of Business, with the fifth in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
The University of Notre Dame just launched a new online Women in Leadership course, offered through its top-ranked Mendoza College of Business, according to a report in The Elkhart Truth. The course, which launched Sept. 1, is intended for women with a range of professional experience, from the first stages of their careers to senior leadership to re-entering the workforce.
And in Florida, the expansion of online courses has made college and university distance learning available for all Floridians who have access to a computer and the internet, writes Bob Boyd, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, in the Tallahassee Democrat.
But the dramatic growth of online and digital courseware can pose challenges, most notably in the area of accessibility and inclusion, according to Brian Klass, senior technology officer for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a veteran UB Tech presenter who spoke on this topic at the recent UB Tech conference in Orlando this past June.
One common mistake is thinking it’s enough to simply tell faculty that law requires accessible content and then they will do the work needed, Klaas said in a session preview. “It’s not about addressing the problem from a big, thick legal policy prospective, but about universal design for learning,” said Klaas, adding that all students benefit from digital accessibility.
Another challenge for schools with online programs is finding ways to connect their remote students to the broader campus community, which many institutions are doing with online clubs and associations, UB recently reported.
Saint Leo University in Florida launched online student organizations, such as clubs and associations, seven years ago to help military and civilian students acclimate to college life, Shadel Hamilton, senior associate vice president of Saint Leo Worldwide Operations, told UB. Students who are involved in the university’s extracurriculars tend to do better academically and complete their degrees, Hamilton said.