No day off for education
The value of the Chillicothe Campus’ online academic offerings have been especially apparent this winter when inclement winter weather made travel difficult and periodically caused the Chillicothe Campus to cancel classes.
More than just conveniences, online offerings have given students and instructors the ability to connect without a classroom. A focus of the campus’ online and distance learning emphasis has been a commitment to utilizing technology to offer a quality educational experience no matter where students find themselves.
Law Enforcement Technology Program Coordinator Jim McKean described the distance learning experience for students the snow and ice kept from campus.
“It is an excellent tool to continue the learning cycle during periods of inclement weather,” he said.
Software and Web sites that have been used as a resource for classes became a classroom when the Chillicothe Campus closed due to the winter weather.
“I found the Blackboard virtual classroom to be helpful on one of the days when classes were cancelled,” said Cindy Matyi, assistant professor of psychology. “Those [students], who could, logged onto their computers at the regular class time and we ‘met’ in cyberspace. It's essentially a chat room, but there is also a whiteboard and a vehicle for posting documents and playing YouTube or other media clips.”
Robert Moats, assistant professor of biological sciences, makes sure his students can learn from lectures even when the snow is falling and the roads are impassable.
“One of the types of files that I post [online] is simply a MP3 recording of the lectures,” he said. “On the days when the weather prevents us from coming to class, I either post the recording from a previous quarter or record a new one. Since most of the students download the files, posting them as regular files works fine.”
Students weathered the bad weather and kept pace with their classes due to the efforts of professors like Nicholas Kiersey, assistant professor of political science, who have been integrating online technology into their classrooms all quarter.
“I teach POLS 150 in a blended format, and we had a relatively seamless time during the snow. Students were still able to obtain their lectures from me via iTunes, and participate in our online discussion forum on Blackboard,” he said.
Going forward with class on a snow day was not without its challenges, however.
“With my other classes it is a little harder to maintain continuity,” Kiersey said, “of course, as students don't necessarily expect to have to check their email on a snow day, or sometimes don't even have electricity. One way around this, as I have been recently discussing with a couple of the OU-C online teaching community, is to make clear in the syllabus that this is an expectation in the event of snow.”
Snow or shine students often utilize the campus’ online technology even before classes begin for the quarter. Early in the quarter, and even before some quarters begin, students often try to log into Blackboard to see what is available for their courses.
“Many students do like to get a head start on the course, and some are probably trying to see what textbooks are required to purchase them from alternative sources,” Director of Information and Technology Services Patty Griffith said.
The campus’ Technology-Rich Learning Community task force held a workshop for OU-C faculty members in early January to discuss online and blended courses.
There are nine online courses and three blended courses on the schedule for the upcoming spring quarter.