College education is changing.
More often than not, students are enrolling in online or hybrid classes to save money and time.
“It’s very difficult for some students to get on campus several days a week for classes,” said Ross Alexander, political science and criminal justice department head at North Georgia College & State University. “With online, a student can log in anytime and work on classes. We have people from literally all over the world enrolled.”
At Brenau University, more than 1,300 students take online classes, a huge jump from the 200 enrolled five years ago.
North Georgia College & State University has nearly 1,000 students enrolled in online classes and degree programs in the political science and criminal justice department alone. Alexander said during registration, it’s not uncommon for online classes to fill up in seconds.
Another model for web-based learning is hybrid courses. These require students to come to campus for some instruction and exams, but everything else is done on the Internet.
It costs about $300 per credit hour for an online class at North Georgia. Alexander said the money covers additional technology support for the courses.
Nathan Goss, online admission specialist at Brenau University, said online and hybrid courses are especially beneficial for graduate students.
Having earned a graduate degree from one of Brenau’s online programs, Goss said the lessons “had a higher level demand of interacting with my peers in online discussion.”
“You need to answer other peoples’ questions and ask your own,” he said. “The more people who are active, the better a professor can ascertain if they copy out of the book or if they’re understanding content.”
Brenau’s online classes are 100 percent online, Goss said. Even the exams are proctored on the web. He said there are some concerns about cheating with that model but added the university has safeguards in place.
“All exams and tests are timed. Once a student logs in, they must complete the exam,” Goss said. “You either know the material or you don’t.”
Brenau courses are a little bit more expensive than North Georgia’s. They run $526 per credit hour, but that cost is reduced to $250 for active duty military and dependents, Goss said.
The cost to take one of the 60 online classes at Gainesville State College is the same as a traditional course, said Nina Lamson, associate professor of psychology and chair of the Distance Education Committee for Gainesville State College’s Oconee campus.
Goss said while there were full online degree programs offered at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, most undergraduates take online courses for convenience, to supplement their traditional instruction.
Lamson said Gainesville State is “not quite there yet” with offering full degrees online.
“That’s something we’re looking at, the possibility of getting an associate’s degree online,” she said, adding the business degree might be first if the college pursues online degrees.
There are still deadlines and structure to online classes, just as there would be with face-to-face instruction, Alexander said.
“With online programs there’s those who think you can go to school in your pajamas and it’s easier,” he said. “But online classes tend to have more work.”
Having online classes allows North Georgia, which has increasing enrollment and retention rates, to save classroom space, Alexander said.
“There’s not any specific data, but just from talking to some of our online faculty and students, there’s really not much of an economic standpoint except for saving gas,” Lamson said.
She said Gainesville State has more nontraditional students in some of our online classes, such as students with families and those who work full time.
“This is definitely the model for the future, even at brick and mortar colleges like ours,” Alexander said.