By Alex Matthews
This summer, Goshen College launched its first semester of online courses. Despite a low enrollment in the summer sessions, the college will run a second online initiative in the summer of 2013, according to Randy Gunden, executive director of adult and online programs.
A tentative list of the online courses will be available by November, Gunden said. He said the college is working “to ensure (the 2013) courses offered will be attractive to current Goshen College students as well as students at other institutions.”
Gunden helped coordinate the past summer’s online courses to better serve students and faculty and reach out to the wider Goshen College community. This community consists of commuters, part-time students and, more importantly, those who Gunden calls “night students” – students with families or day jobs whose only time to study is at the end of the day.
The first semester of online courses included Expository Writing, taught by Ann Hostetler, professor of English; Intro to Philosophy, taught by Kevin Gary, associate professor of education; Office Software Productivity, taught by Carlos Gutierrez, assistant professor of Business; Quantitative Reasoning, taught by David Housman, professor of mathematics; Human Behavior, taught by Jeanne Liechty, professor of social work; and European History, taught by John Roth, professor of history.
The classes lasted for either a seven or 14-week period, with students working at their own pace. Professors taught using email, video conferences and Skype. Assignments were based on discussion threads and Moodle.
Faculty and students participating in the online course program responded to the program’s benefits and limitations following its completion.
Though Gunden acknowledged that the “initial start-up is difficult,” he commended the Goshen College faculty for their “outstanding work in designing and teaching their courses via a new delivery mechanism.”
Gutierrez, who taught an Office Software Productivity class for the first time online, was pleased by the difference in teaching style brought on by the new format. Gutierrez said, “I enjoyed the fact that it pushed me to modify the way I would normally teach in that it forced me to be more proactive and more conscious about understanding how students learn, and how to assess that learning process.”
However, Roth, who taught part of his course while spending several weeks in Europe, missed the “face-to-face teaching with (his) students.” Due to technology and distance-related limitations, Roth felt as if he “wasn’t able to get to know the students very well.”
Students in the online courses expressed a similar range of feedback.
Lassane Ouedraogo, a junior public relations major who took Quantitative Reasoning, said the class fit his summer schedule. “We learned how to become independent learners,” he said.
Sara Klassen, a junior who took Expository Writing, noticed implementation issues in her course. Klassen said, “I didn’t get professor feedback fast enough.” She added, “I had things due on Sundays, which seemed inappropriate due to the summer schedule.”
Despite these issues, Klassen is optimistic about the online format. “I think that Goshen College has the potential of doing online classes well, but it should be expected that the professors of those classes be trained in how to teach an online course,” said Klassen.
Gunden is optimistic as well. “We will get better,” he said.