By Linda Pollock/News writer

This is the second part in a three-part series about online courses.Imagine a campus full of students sitting in their residence halls, all typing and reading from a computer screen. The classrooms are shells of what used to be learning environments, and the professors sit in their offices communicating through e-mails and chat rooms.

Is this the future at Eastern?

Most would say “no” despite the misconception more on-campus students are taking online classes.

“There does appear to be a healthy number of on-campus students taking online classes,” said Tina Davis, assistant registrar. “But there are not as many students as anecdotally people have assumed. It’s always good to look at objective data since a lot of people assumed the number was larger than it actually was.”

According to Davis, for the fall 2004 semester only 15 of the 321 students registered for online classes are in residence halls. This semester 60 of the 415 students are in residence halls.

Two years ago enrollment in online classes was high because students thought it was an easy alternative to classroom learning, according to Gene Kleppinger, online learning coordinator. However, he said the attrition rate was very high because students had the wrong expectations.

“Now there is less attrition but more dedicated students who make it through the courses,” Kleppinger said. “It takes a lot of self discipline and personal dedication, more than in the classroom.

“Anyone who wants to sit in a lecture, take notes and give that back on a test should not take an online class. There is much more engagement (between teacher and student). Those who think it is a bunny course or it will take less time have the wrong expectations.”

Students who take online classes get much more personal attention from their professors, according to Kleppinger.

“Instructors spend much more time dealing with each student. For example, I chat with five to six people (in a chat room) each week, which is very different from a classroom,” Kleppinger said.

University President Joanne Glasser maintains nothing can substitute classroom-facilitated learning.

“The best educational situation is the classroom where students and faculty are in direct contact and have an opportunity for one-on-one interaction without it being filtered through technology,” Glasser said. “But for students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to take a particular class or program, online courses are beneficial.”

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