Registration for summer classes is just around the corner, but one thing is different about BJU’s summer school this year. Beginning this summer, all undergrad classes offered for the summer will be online.
With the decline of undergraduate students enrolling in summer classes on campus and the growing interest in taking classes online, all of BJU’s undergrad summer course offerings will be available only online. “Offering courses online is a way for us to bring BJU to students while they are at home,” said Dr. Gladie Stroup, head of the Center for Distance Learning.
Distance learning courses were first offered in the late 1980s, but they were not the same as they are today. “The formats of the courses changed as the technology changed,” Stroup said, “from audio and videotape to CD and DVD to Internet-delivered recordings.” BJU’s first online course, a psychology course, was piloted in 2006, and each year more courses were added online. In 2012 the distance learning courses were completely switched to the online format.
There are many benefits for students taking an online class. The most significant benefit is the flexibility that an online class offers. The online courses are asynchronous, meaning that students are not required to be online when the instructor presents the lesson. Students can complete their weekly class work at any time of day during the week and on weekends.
Taking online classes also allows students to work ahead in their programs in order to shorten the number of semesters to complete their degrees or to play catch-up if they switched majors.
Finally, online classes give students the opportunity to take a class that might cause conflicts in scheduling during the academic year or that would make for a heavy academic load.
Carrie Hill, a junior English major, took an American literature class online last summer. She said she enjoyed that the lectures were longer than 50 minutes and how that caused the instructors to go more in-depth with the material.
Dr. Renee Wentworth, dean of the College of Arts & Science, said that students who take an online class will come out of the class as prepared as if they had completed it in the classroom.
There are a few drawbacks to taking an online class, though. The daily face-to-face contact with a professor that students typically have when taking a class on campus is replaced by contact only though phone or email. Additionally, because there is less accountability with online classes, students need to be self-disciplined and diligent with the requirements to complete the course. “I advise new online students to ask someone at home to hold them accountable,” Stroup said.
Hill said although she enjoyed the online format, the electronic discussion posts didn’t fully make up for the discussion she normally gets in the classroom.
Dr. Dan Smith, BJU’s registrar and director of educational services, said students need to be motivated, self-disciplined and have good time management skills when taking an online class. Students should be sure to work on their assignments daily, as getting behind could mean several hours of work on a single day.
If a student is unsure if an online class will be a good fit for them, Wentworth encourages them to talk to the class instructor before signing up for the class to learn what the expectations will be for the course.
Students can go to the Center for Distance Learning in the Office Annex building, located behind the Dixon- McKenzie Dining Common, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about online classes. Information is also available at bju.edu.