Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Online classes: for better or worse

About 400 online courses are available to University of Alabama students. These courses contribute to the large number of distance learning students and provide an alternative to the typical classroom setting. Nevertheless, opposing reactions arise when on-campus students are required to take courses online.

“The courses we facilitate are for distance learning students, not necessarily on-campus students; however, a lot of them do take them,” said Rebecca Pow, associate dean in the College of Continuing Studies. “Our goal is to develop from a distance learning perspective. We want to help in students’ process of getting their degree.”

Pow said each department determines whether or not the courses are required. There are departments on campus that have mandatory classes that are solely available online. Journalism, advertising and public relations students are required to take the online based JN 150, a mechanics of writing course.

Wilson Lowrey is the creator and professor of the course.

“I think there are ways to try to get around that problem of a lack of face time,” he said. “Some things absolutely don’t lend themselves to [being online], and some things I think can. I think 150 is an area — because students have had a lot of this stuff before — is something that can be taught that way. I understand it’s difficult for some.”

One of the major student complaints about the course is that it is online. The lack of resources and manpower available to take the course into the classroom has given students the opportunity to explore online classes.

“We teach about 600 or 700 students every year, so we don’t have the space or the faculty to teach something like that,” Lowrey said. “It’s one credit, and students can take it as many times as they want. The goal is to try to hammer home some basics before they get into their writing classes.”

Khristie Stauffer, a senior majoring in public relations, has taken JN 150 and is currently enrolled in an online business course, Marketing 300. Stauffer did not like the journalism class being online.

She said she opted for the online course because of the number of hours she’s taking and the flexibility that it offers.

The College of Commerce and Business Administration has a general business degree program that is available entirely online. GBA 300, a business communications course, is the only online-based course that on-campus GBA students are required to complete. Jennifer Humber, academic advisor and coordinator in the college, said the lecture part of the course is online, while students come on campus for the lab portion.

“GBA 300 is a writing course, so the lecture is pretty straightforward,” she said. “They like having the lectures and the PowerPoints to review. Because the lab is required on campus, you’re getting that classroom experience and the one-on-one attention that you need in the lab, because those are smaller classes.”

Any business course that is required for general business majors, such as MGT 300, are offered for online. FI 400 and EC 400 are the two other courses that are only available online. Humber says many students opt to take FI 302 online, although it’s available in a classroom setting as well.

“A lot of students request the online class for Finance 302 because they have more resources,” Humber said. “They can look at the assignments over and over again. They can do it on their own time. Finance 302 is a very time-consuming class, and so students like the flexibility.”

Whether online classes are beneficial is a question that garners many answers. For freshmen, the transition from highly structured high school classes to online classes can be confusing.

“It’s pretty difficult to do stuff online,” Stauffer said. “It’s a lot of self determination … They should have one or two options for online, especially for freshmen. I don’t know if I could have done it if I was a freshman.”

She suggested having a big lecture class and possibly splitting the class into labs once or twice a week, with graduate students as teachers.

Lowrey stated the possibility of providing assistance through graduate assistants and suggests students set aside time each week for the course. He opens his office for students from the beginning of the year, has multiple help sessions throughout the year and also offers video demonstrations. The department is doing an evaluation of JN 150 this semester.

GBA 300 is an upper-level course composed of mostly juniors and seniors.

“Online courses are not, by any stretch of the imagination, easier than on-campus classes,” Humber said. “Nothing’s different as far as the curriculum is concerned. The difference is, you have to be dedicated to sitting down and dedicating the time. You have to be dedicated to take online classes.”

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