Miami ramping up e-learning offerings

That’s a far cry from some 10 years ago, when only about two percent of students nationally engaged in some kind of e-learning course, according to Beth Rubin, Miami’s assistant provost for e-learning. Last year, more than a third took some kind of online course.

“What that means to me is that American students expect online learning and they use it,” Rubin said.

“We projected that Miami would have 2,348 students in Oxford enrolled in online learning. What we have already, without the summer enrollments, is almost 3,500 students who’ve enrolled in online learning,” she said.

One of those online learners is Allie Engelhart, a junior who is a marketing and interactive media studies major.

“It’s just like if you were in the classroom, but there’s a lot more flexibility, such as being able to pause the lectures to reference other material or things like that,” she said.

She’s also taken courses in digital branding and digital ethics during the regular semester. Professors set up learning modules online and the students log in to those. Those include videos and other activities for the students to complete.

However, the goal is not merely to offer lectures online, Rubin said. Miami officials are looking for an interactive experience in which the students actively participate in the course, even if they’re taking it in their house instead of the campus.

“The goal is to offer the Miami experience through online learning — to have virtually the same level of experience you have online as on the ground. This is the way to sustain the Miami brand,” she said.

But merely recording a lecture and have students take a test on the materials is not engaging enough, Rubin said. The key is to get the students to participate in an active way, and the courses Engelhart has taken have included those components.

“All of the classes have required blog postings so we post to a community forum and we’re able to have conversations with each other about the content through Google communities or tools such as that. But in other circumstances, we have had required sync sessions where they’ll split the class into sections, and maybe five or six of us will jump on Google Hangout, and we’ll be able to have real-time conversations face to face,” Engelhart said.

So far, the university has concentrated e-learning in the regional campuses at Miami and Hamilton because those students commute more and need flexibility, Rubin said.

But flexibility can be important to a busy student like Engelhart too.

“I find that the interactivity stays about the same, but the flexibility is much greater (with e-learning). I’m an extremely active student … it gives you the ability to expand your learning outside of the content,” she said.

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