By Bob Purvis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday April 15, 2003
The UA classroom of the future is just a keystroke away, UA information technology officials say.
The rapid advancement of computer technology and the emergence of high-speed Internet connections has led to a boom in Web-based courses being offered next fall, according to Robin Allen, UA chief information officer.
"The general progress of technology has enabled the ease of use," said Gary Forger, technology coordinator.
There will be 35 more Internet courses offered in the fall than in the previous semester, making it the highest amount of Web-based courses in UA history, Allen said.
As enrollment numbers increase, many colleges are taking advantage of the World Wide Web.
A new program offered by the College of Nursing will allow students to complete the bulk of a doctoral program from the comfort of their own homes.
Beginning Aug. 11, 20 nursing students will take part in the first online doctoral program in the country, from an accredited university.
Prompted by a national nursing educator shortage, the college began drafting the Web course more than a year ago hoping to offer the Ph.D. courses to nurses without having to pull them out of the job force.
Compounding the shortage is the fact that the average age of current doctorate-prepared faculty in the U.S. is 53, meaning that many faculty members are nearing retirement age.
"The program was created to solve the shortage of educators that can produce nurses without taking them out of the workforce," Allen said.
Allen said the nursing program is an example of how Internet courses will meet the needs of the modern student.
"Internet classes allow us to improve the quality of a student's education and to solve specific problems for specific students," Allen said. "We are trying to make classes more interactive."
Jeremy Dorfman, a finance junior, said his experience in an online nutrition course last semester was positive, and would benefit other students.
"In terms of appeal it was definitely the accessibility of it," Dorfman said. "You can go online for two hours a day and finish your assignments. Taking the classroom out of the middle of it really appealed to me."
Forger stressed that the emerging role of Web-based courses will not replace the traditional classroom experience but instead enhance it.
"What's really growing is the amount of hybrid courses," Forger said. "Professors are using technology to supplement the classroom."
Forger and Allen both contested the notion that the hike in Web courses was in response to swelling class sizes or an emaciated budget.
"We can't really save a lot of money on online classes," Allen said. "It can be just as time consuming if not more so to instruct a Web-based course so it doesn't really allow you to teach more students than in a regular class," Allen said.
Advocates of the high-tech classroom say that next fall's boom is a sure sign of things to come with no slowing of the technological freight train in sight.
"In general, we are adding courses all the time," Allen said.