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
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
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,
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
entrepreneurial instruction (www.sba.gov) to such
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
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
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
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
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.
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
— 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
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
publishing company, and come complete a one CD-ROM. These basic
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
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
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
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
Of the 36 semester hours needed, six three-credit courses are
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
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
to have the interest and ability to learn new things, but yet remain
connected and grounded by history and our experiences will be highly
Designed for working adults with professional experience in
another master’s degree, the Master of Science in Management program,
is also conducted almost entirely in distance learning mode. The
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
to come to the campus twice, to meet their cohorts and attend
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
More than four dozen online courses, offered at no more
than $80 per credit, are available from the Mercer College’s The
Campus (TVC), a statewide consortium. Mercer even offers two degrees
that can be obtained completely online, with nary a campus visit
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
Mercer’s online degrees: An Associate in Applied Science in the
business program, and an Associate in Arts with the humanities and
social science option. Similarly, the choices are business
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
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
three accounting courses, business math, business law, human resource
management, computer concepts, Internet and computer technology,
Basic, website design, electric circuits, and Java programming. The
general courses include mass media, English composition, world
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
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.
Free noncredit courses on all kinds of business subjects
are offered online through partnerships with the Small Business
(www.sba.gov/classroom). Cisco Systems has just donated six E-commerce
courses, and the first three are online now — the Internet
Basics of the Internet, and Basics of E-Commerce. Other current
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
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
MBA sites. (Schools pay to get feature consideration here.)
If you are considering taking an online course, these are good
without having to show up in a classroom?
minimum — chat rooms and links to readings? Or is it merely a
correspondence course with E-mailed assignments? Find out what
platform will be used, and how. For instance, www.blackboard.com lets
any teacher "put up" a course for free, but only paid
— such as Thomas Edison State College — can use all the little
perks, such as letting students make notes on their own pages.
Particularly for a graduate course that will emphasize group
how likely are the other students to make valuable contributions?
Will I get faculty responses promptly?
merely "available" to everyone and student evaluation is
to taking automatically graded tests.
in the allotted time, or can I take this course on any schedule?
units or any other recognition that I can point to, other than
satisfaction? If I am getting a degree, will it be from an accredited
A PhD faculty member? Or the equivalent to a graduate student in a
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
offer on-line courses and we don’t have any plans to do so in the
— Barbara Fox
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This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.