Texas State should consider offering more online courses for students in an effort to prevent rapidly growing classes and costs.
Web classes will be beneficial for the university to improve graduation rates and help support any enrollment increases in the coming years.
For years, universities have offered online courses for distance learners and professionals to develop skills, such as Microsoft Excel proficiency and HTML programming, necessary for the ever-changing workplace. Online courses should be more extensively used at Texas State as a reliever for overfilled lecture halls or overhead costs.
Within the past year, the advent of Coursera, OpenCourseWare and edX has changed the institutional approach to online learning. According to an Aug. 21 New York Times article, these sites with open online and advanced courses from leading universities engage more than a million students from around the world for free. The nature of free massive open online courses has attracted the attention of top-tier universities.
According to a Sept. 19 Huffington Post article, Coursera is now partnered with 33 universities offering online classes. A couple Coursera-offered classes include Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics” and “A History of the World since 1300”.
According to an Oct. 10 Your Houston News article, Rice University recently offered its first Coursera course, An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python. By Oct. 5, 54,000 students enrolled in it. According to an Aug. 22 Texas Tribune article, the University of Texas at Austin is considering making Coursera and edX available to students as well.
Online classes are not only an attractive alternative for universities, but they also serve to benefit students. Digital archives can reinforce lessons by allowing students to re-do modules with learning tailored to their own paces. However, this does not mean that online classes are necessarily an easier alternative.
According to the Texas State Distance and Extended Learning webpage, Texas State provides a number of completely online class offerings in a handful of subjects, most notably in Health Information Management and Social Work-Administration/ Supervision Practice and Direct Practice masters programs. Other courses are available in a variety of disciplines, including English, history and psychology, all with different amounts of online classwork.
Looking forward, affordability must be taken into consideration. In addition, more classes in various subjects should be offered and web infrastructure needs to be improved in order for online courses to become a viable alternative for Texas State.
According to an Oct. 7 Wall Street Journal article, Gov. Rick Perry recently updated his rally for state universities to provide affordable $10,000 degrees for students. According to the same article, Angelo State University has plans to offer degrees for $10,000 and integrate larger classes and online coursework to help achieve the lower price tag. This proves to be the most cost-effective method.
According to a March 1 Texas Tribune article, the University of Texas’ 2009 four-year graduation rate stands at 53 percent. Texas State’s rate is 30 percent. Being able to attend class whenever and wherever may improve four-year graduation rates with the large commuter and part-time student body at Texas State.
Providing more online courses can increase graduation rates, improve retention and help lower the overall cost of higher education, though it is the student’s responsibility to keep up with classes.
— Ravi Venkataraman is a creative writing masters student.