By Alyssa Roat | Echo
Every semester, many students struggle to fit the classes they need into their schedule.
Whether two mandatory classes are offered at the same time or a class fills too quickly for a student to get in, registration can be frustrating.
However, with advising season approaching, there may be another option of which many students are not aware: online classes taken during the semester.
According to Taylor University Online (TUO)'s website, Taylor offers 110+ online courses that are available to the public. These range from introductory biblical literature classes to 400 level professional writing courses.
Though these classes are in theory available to anyone, the majority of a random sampling of students queried did not know they were offered during the semester.
Bruce Pratt is currently teaching an online class, Bb KIN 100 Fitness for Life. Pratt began teaching Fitness for Life online over ten years ago.
However, the blackboard version differs from the class he usually teaches in a significant way. Most TUO classes are offered in an open enrollment format, meaning students enroll at any time and have four months to complete the class. This version, however, is offered in a semester format like any other class.
Students in Pratt's class do not have to meet for class at a specific time. Instead, they are provided with resources and given online assignments. Meanwhile, Pratt teaches the class from afar. Thus, all involved are able to participate in a way that fits their schedules.
It seems like this is a helpful model. So, why aren't more Taylor classes offered this way?
As a junior at Taylor, I still have difficulties getting into classes. As a freshman and sophomore, it was worse. Many of the gen-ed classes I needed were full long before my registration time slot opened. The ones that remained often conflicted with one another.
After talking with other students, I learned that many had the same problem. I realized that if conflicting classes were offered online, we would be able to take whatever classes we needed without worrying about time slots.
Professor Linda Taylor has also taught many online classes, including classes for on-campus students when their schedules didn't allow them to take necessary classes.
"I think there are big possibilities with online learning that Taylor could explore," Taylor said.
Granted, teaching online classes does not come without its own set of struggles.
Taylor stated that she believes it is better to take in-person classes if possible. She pointed out that a classroom setting can offer better opportunities for conversant teaching, group work and class interactions.
Pratt also noted some difficulties, citing clarity issues with online communication and delays in response time.
Both also noted the increased amount of time it takes to set up an online class, though Pratt observed that this is offset by the lack of time spent in class.
However, as Blackboard improves, these communication issues are also improving. For example, in Pratt's Bb Fitness for Life class, students participate in discussions via the discussions tab. For classes offered like this during the semester, students can still communicate and collaborate.
Thus, I believe it would be beneficial for Taylor University to actively promote and offer more gen-ed classes to students during the semester.
Not only would it help students who are unable to attend classes due to schedule conflicts, but Taylor also pointed out other potential benefits.
She observed that online classes would be helpful for non-traditional students who commute, increasing likelihood of attendance. She also noted that Taylor could offer online classes to high school and homeschool students, which would bring in more money for the school.
Whether students are traditional, commuters or visitors from other schools, I believe there is more we as a university can offer online through education and accessibility.