Last year Oregon State University’s online bachelor’s degree program, called Ecampus, was ranked fifth in the nation for the best online bachelor’s programs, according to U.S. News.
This year OSU is ranked seventh in the same category while also placing sixth for the bachelor’s degree programs for veterans.
According to Jessica DuPont, the director of marketing for Extended Campus, now is an exciting time to be a part of Ecampus with a larger number of offerings and programs available to distance students. Over 900 accredited courses on 90 different subjects are currently offered on the Ecampus web page, but this was not always the case.
OSU’s Ecampus has grown considerably since it began in 2000. DuPont points out it might not seem like a long time, in the context of online learning, OSU has offered online classes longer than most universities.
“Things are totally different just in a ten year timeframe,” DuPont said. “In the early days of online education, faculty were really brave to want to partner with us and put their classes online.”
One of the few who partnered with Ecampus early on was Sara Jameson, a chair member of the College of Liberal Arts Faculty Senate committee on Online Education. Jameson teaches multiple online courses and she said those working on instructional technology offered assistance are what makes OSU’s Ecampus so effective.
Jameson explained that online classes go through a formal review process before they are offered to distance students to ensure the quality of the classes are high.
“Teachers are encouraged to provide quality material to make sure that your course is meeting the needs of the students and certified,” Jameson said.
Student needs, which is the key focus for online instructors, proved to be a challenge because students are unable to meet face-to-face with their instructors. Jameson has a solution to this particular issue.
“It’s best when the instructor is willing to be present in the online class a lot,” Jameson said. “If an instructor only drops in to check on things once or twice a week, that’s not a good recipe for success for your students.”
The issue of not being able to interact with the instructors in person is one of the most glaring issues, but along with it comes a collection of others. One of these issues, Jameson said, is the learning curve between those who may be taking their first online class versus somebody who has experience taking online classes.
“You have to be not only proactive, but you have to be self-motivated,” Jameson said. “It’s up to you to schedule your time to make sure that you have two hours on Thursday afternoon to do an assignment.”
This is one of the biggest issues keeping some students from doing as well as they would hope in an online class. However, according to Shireen Hyrapiet, an instructor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU, the other side of this issue is the ability for students to have added flexibility.
“There are a lot of students that have very demanding schedules,” Hyrapiet said. “So being able to take an online class helps them fit in with that schedule.”
According to Hyrapiet, taking online classes also assists people who may not be able to go to school full time, or may be working a regular job, this makes flexibility highly attractive to them.
DuPont also pointed that the type of student who signs up for online classes is someone who is highly motivated, trying to get a degree to further themselves up the ladder of their current job or trying to juggle a career and raise a family. However, DuPont mentioned that it is likely that they will stop monitoring that statistic altogether.
Tyler Hansen, marketing communications manager with OSU Ecampus, said that there are cases where a student will think that online classes are easy, and will require little to no time or attention to succeed in. He was then quick to say that the opposite is true.
“There’s a lot of flexibility in an online class,” Hansen said. “But with flexibility comes personal responsibility.”