Contributor Charles Choi
Last week we introduced this series on online education, highlighting the benefits that it can have for established professors and current students. The latter are the biggest clientele of online science courses at the University of Buffalo in New York, especially the students enrolled at the university itself, says Lara Hutson, a research assistant professor at the University of Buffalo. “They may need the biochemistry course to satisfy a prerequisite for their major.” Hutson teaches an online biochemistry course during the summer as well as a number of traditional courses.
The biggest attraction, Hutson says, is the convenience. An online course may be the only one they can fit into their schedule. “They can go home to wherever they live and take it – for example, if they have a job there,” Hutson says. “Our students are mostly from other parts of New York, but I’ve had one student take it from Brazil.”
The convenience of online courses was certainly Monica Mogilewsky’s motivation. “I was working at the Myakka City Lemur Reserve and I lived onsite. I worked on-call 24-7, managing a colony of lemurs, so commuting to a campus was not an option,” she says. “The flexibility that online learning offered made it possible for me to get my degree.”
“Students in my online courses may need my chemistry class for their requirements, and are often working full-time, or in the military, or working on oil rigs two weeks on and two weeks off, or are in distant villages,” says Susan Mircovich, an assistant professor of chemistry at Kenai Peninsula College, a campus of the University of Alaska at Anchorage. “An online class may be the only way if you cannot fit a classroom lesson into your schedule.”
Online programmes can help students balance family and work. “I was living in Charlotte with my family, working full time, and couldn’t take two years off to attend business school on campus at Chapel Hill or anywhere,” says Julie Goodliffe, CEO of Sustainable Ethanol Technologies.
Access to course materials is a huge benefit as well. “Students can review recorded lectures as many times as they want – they may watch how to solve a chemistry problem five times in order to get it,” Mircovich says.
Next we’re exploring how cost and credits are important in making your decisions.