Few undergrad online options

By By Kitt Wolfenden, News Staff

Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) offers online programs for its non-traditional students, but there are few online options at Northeastern in other colleges like Arts and Sciences and the Bouve College of Health Sciences.
According to a 2007 survey from the US Department of Education’s Center for Educational Statistics (CES), 65 percent of American degree-granting postsecondary institutions offered some form of distance education (classes that offer online or postal communications instead of just in-class teaching), up from 33 percent in 1995 and reported by the CES in a survey from 1997. Altogether, between the nearly 1,500 colleges that responded to the survey, online enrollments amounted to 12.2 million in 2006-07.
Northeastern University Online is administered through CPS, which, according to its website, aims to provide ‘non-traditional learners, international students and working professionals with an education that is innovative, flexible and substantial.’
Online CPS programs have grown to expand upon CPS’s offerings in the past few years.’ Forty-six percent of the 15,000 students served by CPS each year are enrolled in completely or partially online courses, according to cps.neu.edu, which amounts to 7,000 distance education students. CPS offers 25 online undergraduate degree programs, two online doctorates, 15 online masters and 22 certification programs.
Traditional undergraduate students in fields from journalism to engineering cannot take online classes at Northeastern because CPS courses do not earn credit toward another college’s degree.
‘Generally, the curriculum and scheduling does not support the integration of CPS and day courses,’ said Todd Leach, senior associate dean for academic and faculty affairs at CPS.
Leach said NU Online offers flexibility and convenience to non-traditional students.
‘Students primarily choose to study at the college because of our unique programs, such as leadership and regulatory affairs, but students also choose us because they require the convenience offered by our scheduling and technology and would otherwise be unable to participate in a Northeastern experience,’ Leach said.
Leach said the college uses advanced technologies to replicate the in-class experience online.
‘We utilize a variety of technology applications and tools to deliver online courses,’ he said. ‘The college has its own version of Blackboard. We also have several classrooms equipped with streaming video technology. In addition, we employ a professional technology support service for students.’
Leach also said that CPS has seen substantial growth in its online enrollments in the last few years.
‘The college has experienced a great deal of growth in recent years, particularly at the graduate level,’ he said.’ ‘I attribute much of this growth to our level of innovation combined with convenience and value. New programs account for a good portion of this growth.’
But while CPS is expanding through new programs and international partnerships, other colleges are slow to create online options.
Northeastern’s College of Business Administration has recently created an online Masters in Business Administration (MBA) program that allows students to receive an MBA in 24 to 27 months while working in a full-time job, but this program is exclusively for working professionals with five years of experience.
And while NU Online focuses on serving such working professionals and other non-traditional students in both CPS and the new MBA program, the benefits of online classes remain unavailable to undergraduate students.
Bruce Ronkin, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said his college neither accepts CPS courses nor offers more than a few online courses, but that he recognized the interest students have in distance education.
‘We find a lot of students are interested in taking one course while on co-op,’ he said. ‘Having the online option would serve our students doing co-op outside of Boston.’
Ronkin said research into online offerings was underway.
‘We are currently examining additional situations where online courses will serve our students better,’ he said.’ ‘We are actively exploring the expansion of online offerings.’
However, not all students said they would take advantage of such classes if they were offered.
Alana Miller-Engel, a freshman American Sign Language interpreting major, said she doubted online classes could effectively substitute for her in-class studies, even with new technology.
‘If they were offered for some of the core classes I probably would take them,’ she said.’ ‘But since my major requires more interaction with teachers, they wouldn’t really be useful. I can’t really take an ASL class online.-

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