Colleges work to meet demand for online study

Schools around Northwest Indiana are working to make more of their programs accessible to online-inclined students.

As student demand for online courses and degrees continues to grow, local schools are working hard to recruit students.

Janet Schutte, director of marketing for Indiana Tech, said the school offers about 30 online degrees ranging from associates to masters. Offering online degrees significantly helps with recruiting students, she said.

“We’re seeing a big increase in students enrolling in online courses. We’re also seeing a lot of students like to be able to mix their classes and take some in a classroom and some online depending on their schedules and subject matter.

Most of the school’s online students are in their 30s or 40s, working while trying to complete a degree. They also have a few military students who like the ability to move without disrupting their college program.

“We’re definitely adding more online degrees, taking some of the degrees that we offer at our campuses and developing them for online. There are also a couple of degree programs only available online so as we look at new fields and decide whether there is a market for the degree, we’ll look at whether it should be in classroom or online or offered both ways.”

Online learning helps the school reach more students without opening new locations.

“We have 15 campuses in Indiana and Kentucky. That used to be the only way to really grow, was by looking at new geography.”

While many online students come from Indiana, having flexibility makes Indiana Tech a better option for them, she said.

In January 2015, they plan to add online courses high school students can take to earn college credit.

“That saves them a lot of money because it’s a discounted tuition rate and it fits their schedule. If they’re taking a full class load in high school, plus in athletics or a part time job, being able to do it online helps them do that.”

Indiana Tech’s online courses are offered in an accelerated model where each class is five weeks for undergrads or six weeks for graduate students so they can start them any time of year.

They don’t have to wait until beginning of traditional semesters.

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Angela Velez-Solic, the associate director and clinical assistant professor of education at Indiana University Northwest’s Center for Innovation & Scholarship in Teaching & Learning, said IUN’s administration wants more online classes and to add entirely online degree programs.

“Right now they are saying let’s get as many courses online as we can and get as many faculty trained as we can. That’s how we are approaching that need where students are telling us they want more classes online.”

It has a lot to do with flexibility, she said and IUN’s demographic is not traditional students who are 19, out of high school and living with parents.

If they have a choice between having to drive to campus and lose several hours, they would rather not, she said.

“At institutions like IUN, we have to compete with for profits. That’s the reality. Students can get a degree from a for profit institution and the degree is just as good … If IUN can’t compete, we will be losing students. We have to step up our game and give the students what they need and want in order to keep them coming to IUN vs. registering with an institution that will give them a fully online degree.”

She said IUN’s online classes are basically the same price as a face-to-face class and that they generally have the same amount of students as a traditional classroom.

Velez-Solic recently developed a new 15-hour certificate program for high school and middle school teachers to learn how to develop and teach online courses at that level. The program took two years to get approved and will go into effect spring 2015.

“I noticed some schools in Northwest Indiana are starting to offer online courses in high schools. I thought maybe other schools need to think about online courses too, maybe even in middle school to offer more flexibility to students.”

Ivy Tech Community College offers 350 online courses and 12 online degree programs, making it easier for students to take classes that fit their schedule, said Ericka McCauley, bi-regional director of enrollment, marketing and communication at Ivy Tech.

“Online degrees range from an associate’s of applied science to an associate’s of science to an associate’s of general studies. Areas of study where students can receive an online degree include business administration, accounting, manufacturing and production operations, criminal justice and many others. Online certificates are also offered in these fields.”

Some of the programs may require campus classes or internships.

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