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by Eija Rissanen, Student Life editor


At HPU, online classes are adding new learning opportunities for all students. International students can start their degree online before they arrive on O‘ahu, if they have visa delays. Students who could not graduate because they failed a class and could not stay to retake it, now have an opportunity to do so online.

In addition, students, who want to take classes but need to stay on the mainland or other Hawaiian islands, can take classes online. According to Joe Schmiedl, dean of Distance Education, 20 percent of online students do not live in O‘ahu; they are from 46 states and 15 countries.

Online students who live on O‘ahu want flexibility in their schedules, especially if they are working full time, or if they have a family. Kimberly Cavanaugh, who is taking LIT 2000 online this semester, is a mother of four small children.

“ I wanted to be able to stay at home more,” said Cavanaugh. “Without online classes it would be impossible for me to finish my degree.”

Online classes are also a benefit for professors who must move to the mainland or elsewhere for professional or personal reasons. Fran Lowell, a full-time College of Communication faculty member, is able to live in Arizona, where she is a caretaker of a family member, and teach HPU classes online. HPU wants to take advantage of good teachers, and online teaching makes it possible.

According to Schmiedl, all online classes are built to be as similar as possible to regular classes. The size of an online class has never been bigger than 40 students, and the average size is 21. Even though assignments and testing methods can differ, online classes are as challenging as regular classes, said Schmiedl.

“ I have noticed that online classes require much more real work than regular classes,” said Greta Conti, who is taking LIT 2000 and COM 3500 online this semester. “Although I have the whole week to organize the assignments, things that in a regular class are usually underestimated, e.g. participation and class discussions, become weekly mini-assignments, that are objects of evaluation in an online class.”

Chats and discussion forum work make online classes interactive, and usually the participation level of online students is higher, Schmiedl said.

“ I really like classes that involve discussion of ideas,” Conti said. “When a student has to show his or her participation in the class through weekly posts, it is actually more useful than a regular in-class discussion. Having to put ideas, even simple ones, in writing requires a higher degree of thoughtfulness and elaboration than simply having to say something in class.”

At HPU online classes are not built using a certain model, so students work differently with different professors. However, all online classes are taught through the WebCT.

Tutoring and students’ expectations are the main challenges for online learning. Schmiedl said that HPU could do better on tutoring online students, but it is hard to make it work for everyone. A tutor and an online student can be in different time zones, or the problem the student is having cannot be solved via Internet. Sometimes the best tutor is the electronic tutorial coming with the book.

Online professors must also be clear with their instructions. For example, students can be confused whether “due by the end of the week” means by Friday or Sunday. Students also expect faster responses to their questions, so mutual wait time needs to be established.

The first online class of 16 students was taught during the winter semester of 1999. In spring semester 2001, the first online degree, Associate of Science in Management, was offered through the Military Campus Program. Now four bachelor’s degrees in business – management, marketing, computer information system, and general business – and one master’s degree, Arts in Organizational Change and Development, are offered. Soon a few other degrees will be available as online degrees.

However, not one HPU student has yet completed a degree online, Schmiedl said. Students usually combine online classes with regular ones. “Students need to tell their advisors if they need a new class, so that it can be added,” Schmiedl said.

Schmiedl says that online classes are not for everybody, but they fill in fast. “Register as early as possible to get what you want,” he advised.



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