TESC Online

Online at Mercer

Online at Middlesex

Online at SBA

Finding Online Classes

Due Diligence

Virtual Holdouts

Corrections or additions?

New for Fall — Online and Offline

Until now, geography has been a limiting factor for

night and weekend courses. You decided where to attend a class by

how far you were willing to drive. Now that online learning removes

the limits of geography, the choices are daunting — and inspiring.

Online learning has proliferated to an exponential degree, and is

expected to grow to be 3 million students this year.

The University of South Africa, for instance, has 120,000 students

worldwide. The Indira Gandhi National University has from 300,000

to 400,000 online students. Closer to home, the University of

Wisconsin

has from 2,000 to 3,000 students who take all their courses online.

Thomas Edison State College has 200 students taking its online courses

at any one time, or about 1,500 per year.

A big part of the virtual education market will be in corporate

training,

upgrading the skills of workers in a particular industry with courses

not open to the general public. Good examples of this are Edu-neering

Inc. (founded at Research Park, now operating in Langhorne,

Pennsylvania)

and Princeton Learning Systems (which was bought by Yipinet and now

does business as www.eMind.com in California).

Another big chunk will come from the "free" courses used to

promote certain agendas, everything from the Small Business

Administration’s

entrepreneurial instruction (www.sba.gov) to such

"Educommerce"

initiatives as the new Barnes & Noble University, which is partnering

with www.notHarvard.com to offer courses that will help sell books.

Even the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is thinking about getting

into this business.

Nevertheless the traditional educators — colleges and universities

— are elbowing each other in their haste to go online. They want

the distance education student. According to Peterson’s (the college

information company on Lenox Drive) most of these students are more

than 25 years old, employed, and have had some college classes. More

than half are women. Nearly all are very motivated, and more of them

complete their courses than students on traditional campuses.

Just as bricks and mortar colleges handle class sizes

differently, so do virtual institutions. It costs more to get

individual

attention. It costs more to have big name professors than to employ

graduate students. So some of the world’s major distance education

universities develop standard courses and then hire faculty members

as guides. Thomas Edison State College (TESC) on West State Street

in Trenton often uses this model.

TESC clarifies its approach by calling students "learners"

who are supposed to work independently, and its faculty members are

called "mentors." TESC has no full-time faculty members; its

professors often have positions elsewhere and work for TESC as

consultants.

For the online programs they give assignments and exams and respond

to questions and online discussions, says Henry Van Zyl, director

of instructional design and course development.

In contrast, University of Wisconsin’s online courses are taught by

full-time faculty members who supervise what would be the equivalent

to precepts at a bricks and mortar college. "Our focus is on

creating

lots of collaborative learning online, lots of learner services so

they feel like they are very much a learning community," says

Michael Offerman, UW’s dean of continuing education and director of

its Learning Innovation program. Of 10,000 independent learning

students

at UW, 20 to 30 percent are taking all their classes online.

Even though geography is of no theoretical concern to the student,

Central New Jersey’s contribution to virtual learning is interesting

from a business perspective. Here are some of the new online courses

and degrees offered by area colleges.

Top Of Page
TESC Online

Thomas Edison State College offers 19 courses, several

bachelor’s degrees, and two graduate degrees online, at www.tesc.edu.

Most courses last 16 weeks and cost $225 for state residents, $297

for everyone else, but a couple of them, such as Social Psychology

and Global Environmental Change, cost $459 and $594. Four of the

courses

— introduction to photography, introduction to computers, business

policy, and computer concepts and applications — were developed

specifically for TESC.

"What’s exciting about online teaching on the Blackboard platform

is that you can build multimedia into the course," says Henry

Van Zyl, director of instructional design and course development.

A graduate of the University of Port Elizabeth, Class of 1967, he

taught high school English before earning his doctor’s degree in

instructional

design. He was working in the online learning area at the University

of South Africa before he was tapped by TESC.

"We are moving towards fully multimedia web courses, incorporating

full-motion video with sound and animation, often controlled by the

student," he says. If a Robert Frost poem is being presented,

students can click on a link to hear Frost reading the poem. Or for

Shakespeare, they can link to a videoclip of Gielgud. Then students

can make notes on that page, as if in the margin of a textbook, and

reformat those notes for use in a paper.

The science courses are provided by Archipelago, a well-known

multimedia

publishing company, and come complete a one CD-ROM. These basic

courses

in chemistry and physics — are billed as suitable for non-science

majors, yet they do have lab work, virtual style. Mix chemicals one

way and you see one result. Mix them another way for a different

result.

All without creating bad smells or blowing up your computer. Biology

will be among the next offerings, and nose-wrinklers will be able

to virtually dissect the frog without ever smelling formaldehyde.

All online courses require textbooks, video or audio tapes, or a

CD-ROM,

and these same courses are also offered off line, sometimes with an

E-mail option, for the same price as online. The off line courses,

112 of them, are called "guided study." New this year are

Radiation Dosimetry, Personal Finance for 2000 and Beyond, and

Thanatology:

An Understanding of Death and Dying.

A new TESC degree, available entirely through online courses, is the

master of arts in professional studies (MAPS), designed for working

professionals who want to relate their liberal arts studies to their

ongoing work.

Of the 36 semester hours needed, six three-credit courses are

required,

including courses entitled "Change, Conflict and Resolution,"

"The Liberal Arts and Professional Life," and "Sense of

Community: Arts and Morality." Twelve credits are elective, and

each student must complete a six-credit interdisciplinary

"Capstone

Project" that builds on contemporary and historic sources and

applies the knowledge to the workplace or community.

James E. Carnes, president of Sarnoff, has given his imprimatur to

this program with a statement that "New entrants into the work

force are expected to enjoy as many as five different careers. In

this environment, the ability to think clearly, to communicate

effectively,

to have the interest and ability to learn new things, but yet remain

connected and grounded by history and our experiences will be highly

valued."

Designed for working adults with professional experience in

management,

another master’s degree, the Master of Science in Management program,

is also conducted almost entirely in distance learning mode. The

36-credit

program aims to build skills and apply them to actual situations.

The course is conducted online, through E-mail and discussions which

students can join any time of the day or night, but it require

students

to come to the campus twice, to meet their cohorts and attend

workshops

on the first weekend, and to present their research projects on the

second weekend. Applicants do not need to take admissions tests, and

they may transfer up to six semester hours toward the degree. A group

of managers from AT&T started the "beta test" for this degree

in 1996; a new class starts every four months. For information call

888-442-8372.

Top Of Page
Online at Mercer

More than four dozen online courses, offered at no more

than $80 per credit, are available from the Mercer College’s The

Virtual

Campus (TVC), a statewide consortium. Mercer even offers two degrees

that can be obtained completely online, with nary a campus visit

(www.mccc.edu/TVC

or 609-586-4800, extension 3317 or 3389).

And through New Jersey’s Virtual Community College Consortium, two

other community colleges, Atlantic and Burlington, also offer

associate’s

degrees (www.njvccc.cc.nj.us).

Mercer’s online degrees: An Associate in Applied Science in the

general

business program, and an Associate in Arts with the humanities and

social science option. Similarly, the choices are business

administration

or liberal arts at Burlington County College.

Atlantic Cape Community College offers an Associate in Science degree

in general studies, business administration, or computer information

systems. Or choose an Associate in Arts with a concentration in

history,

liberal arts, social science, or psychology.

Online courses draw from colleges around the state. Economics I and

II, for instance, are taught by Paul Harris of Camden County College.

Business Communications is a course developed by Dorothy Gleckner

at Bergen County College.

Among the business and computer online courses available through

Mercer:

three accounting courses, business math, business law, human resource

management, computer concepts, Internet and computer technology,

Visual

Basic, website design, electric circuits, and Java programming. The

general courses include mass media, English composition, world

literature,

women writers, history of Western civilization, history of American

women, moral choices, three courses in psychology, two courses in

government, two in sociology, comparative religion, and introduction

to art.

Top Of Page
Online at Middlesex

Middlesex College offers a number of online courses

in addition to its traditional programs. Applications can be printed

from the college’s home page at www.middlesex.cc.nj.us and mailed

with a $25application fee. Part-time students can apply up to the

first-day of classes, Tuesday, September 5. The main campus is in

Edison but classes are also held in Perth Amboy. Tuition is $67.50

per credit hour. Call 732-906-2510, extension 3510.

Top Of Page
Online at SBA

Free noncredit courses on all kinds of business subjects

are offered online through partnerships with the Small Business

Administration

(www.sba.gov/classroom). Cisco Systems has just donated six E-commerce

courses, and the first three are online now — the Internet

Economy,

Basics of the Internet, and Basics of E-Commerce. Other current

choices

are How to Raise Capital for a Small Business, How to start a Small

Business, The Business Plan, and Building Your Business. Call 800-U

ASK SBA.

Top Of Page
Finding Online Classes

One good source for web addresses of virtual classrooms

is Peterson’s, headquartered at Princeton Pike Corporate Center. Its

book of virtual programs will be updated later this year, but its

website (www.petersons.com) has many of the latest additions.

Virtual courses, indeed, are popping up everywhere and are very hard

to track. When we looked at the site, Thomas Edison State College’s

new Master Arts in Professional Studies was nowhere to be found, and

one of its older programs, the online MBA, was not among the

"featured"

MBA sites. (Schools pay to get feature consideration here.)

Top Of Page
Due Diligence

If you are considering taking an online course, these are good

questions

to ask:

Am I sufficiently independent and motivated to study

independently

without having to show up in a classroom?

Does this course use the technology, with — at the

minimum — chat rooms and links to readings? Or is it merely a

correspondence course with E-mailed assignments? Find out what

software

platform will be used, and how. For instance, www.blackboard.com lets

any teacher "put up" a course for free, but only paid

subscribers

— such as Thomas Edison State College — can use all the little

perks, such as letting students make notes on their own pages.

Will there be interaction with faculty and/or students?

Particularly for a graduate course that will emphasize group

discussions,

how likely are the other students to make valuable contributions?

Will I get faculty responses promptly?

Will someone monitor my progress? Free courses are

sometimes

merely "available" to everyone and student evaluation is

limited

to taking automatically graded tests.

Am I actually enrolled and expected to finish the work

in the allotted time, or can I take this course on any schedule?

Does the course offer credits or continuing education

units or any other recognition that I can point to, other than

personal

satisfaction? If I am getting a degree, will it be from an accredited

institution?

Who is teaching this course? The person who developed it?

A PhD faculty member? Or the equivalent to a graduate student in a

large university?

Top Of Page
Virtual Holdouts

Some of New Jersey’s very best colleges are aggressively turning their

backs on online learning. Rider University is focusing its technology

efforts on enhancing classes for its bricks and mortar students. So

does the College of New Jersey. "We are looking at technology

as a way to enhance courses, not replace the traditional relationship

between students and faculty that is central to TCNJ’s mission,"

says Sue Long, TCNJ spokesperson. "The College of New Jersey

doesn’t

offer on-line courses and we don’t have any plans to do so in the

near future."

— Barbara Fox


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