There is good news for students who love their computers, or simply hate facing the negative wind chills while walking to class.
Northwestern is planning to expand its offering of online courses and allow students to take classes online during the regular school year.
It may seem odd to take online classes from a college while living on campus, but there are several advantages. “The online classes would give the students some more flexibility,” said NW Provost Jasper Lesage.
Students who have previously taken classes online from other colleges know how nice this can be. Senior Donna Keith, who took a combination of classes from NW and Northwest Iowa Community College, said flexibility was her favorite aspect of the online realm.
“I had deadlines that I had to turn assignments in by, but I could do them whenever I had the time,” said Keith.
Another great thing about taking online classes from NW is the proximity as well as the quality of the professors. Keith’s biggest issue with her online classes was how difficult the online, impersonal format made it for her to ask questions.
“If I had a question, I would have to e-mail the professor and wait for them to respond,” Keith said.
Crystal Hillenga, a junior, took an online class through North Iowa Area Community College and could also have benefited from having professors nearby.
When it came time for her to take tests, “I had to go to their campus, which was 30 minutes away, and take the test in their library with a proctor,” said Hillenga. “It was really inconvenient, especially in the summer with my job.”
Junior Tanya Woodward, who is currently taking an online class from another community college in Iowa, is having a much more negative online experience. Woodward now knows the importance of having a good professor, even if one never meets the professor in person.
“My professor is unreasonable,” said Woodward. As an Elementary Education major taking an online Physics class in order to fulfill her general education requirement for science, she felt as though her professor was expecting her to know much more than is realistic for someone in her position.
“I have to design and implement my own labs, which I have never done before, and it just seems like so much to ask someone to do for a gen ed,” said Woodward. “I took this class online because I thought it would be an easier way to complete my science requirement, but the professor and the course’s setup made it harder than it should be.”
Junior Abby Korthals also expressed an interest in NW making more online courses available throughout the year as opposed to strictly in May. She took a Western Civilizations class online through Western Iowa Technical College last June, but would have preferred to have taken the class through NW’s online program.“The problem with taking Western Civilization from NW online was its starting time,” said Korthals.
Although she passed the online course easily, “I didn’t learn a thing,” said Korthals. “It was the easiest class ever. I didn’t have to do the readings; I just had to skim the assignments to find my (quiz) answers.”
Korthals is not alone in experiencing a lack of true learning from online classes. Freshman Ben Saint took several classes online from Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn., while in high school, and admits to not learning as much as he was likely supposed to.
Saint took his classes in his high school’s computer lab, sitting next to his friends who were taking the same courses at the same time.
“We helped each other all the time,” said Saint. “It was the easiest thing ever.”
Online classes through NW will not have a goal of making their courses simpler or easier for students. According to Lesage, on or offline, NW plans to uphold, “the same quality in all of our classes.”