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Online Campus expands offerings, university's reach


Students in Cal State East Bay's Online Campus account for about 15 percent of the university's enrolllment.

  • November 3, 2009

In its 10th year of offering online degree programs, Cal State East Bay continues expanding its reach beyond geographic borders. With the start of fall quarter, the university’s Online Campus introduced three new offerings, bringing the program total to eight. A ninth program is expected to launch in 2010.

New to CSUEB’s online line up are Bachelor of Science completion programs in business administration and health science and a Master of Science program in taxation. A master’s degree program in educational leadership also has been approved.

Existing programs offer bachelor’s degree completion in human development, recreation and hospitality and tourism; and master’s degrees in education or recreation and tourism.

“I’m really spoiled now,” said Keelin Jardin, 31, an online student in the recreation and tourism M.S. program, who previously completed her undergraduate degree through the Online Campus. “You get to choose when you’re alert enough to attend class or listen to a lecture.”

As the mother of two, including an 18-month-old, Jardin said attending the Online Campus means she can post comments to the class discussion board, log on for a lecture and correspond with her instructor while her children sleep, without hopping in the car, lining up a babysitter or changing out of her pajamas.

The Online Campus accounts for approximately 15 percent of Cal State East Bay enrollment. Administrators and students said they expect the distance learning program’s growth and popularity to continue unabated.

“I think it’s the future,” said Jardin, an assistant activities director for a retirement community. “At my work, that’s how we communicate: through e-mail.”
“It teaches you how to interact with people through a computer,” she added. “It teaches you how to be clear and understood.”

Many institutions offer online courses through an extension program, explained Carl Bellone, Associate Vice President for Academic Programs and Graduate Studies. From the start, Cal State East Bay, however, created the Online Campus in consultation with regular faculty members, who also teach the courses. While most online programs offer a smattering of classes in multiple disciplines, Cal State East Bay’s Online Campus offers complete degree programs in fields of highest student demand and greatest faculty member interest.

“This is a very faculty-driven process,” Bellone said. “These are regular academic programs that are based in academic departments. They’re part of the fundamental mission of the university.

“Every course that’s online or hybrid has to be approved at the curricular level to maintain academic integrity and quality.”

The first degree available through the Online Campus, an M.S. in education - option in online teaching and learning, was introduced in 1999.

“That was one of the first master’s degree programs to teach lots of people (how) to teach online,” Bellone said. “They have hundreds of alumni (teaching) not only on our faculty but on the faculty at other CSU campuses and at community colleges.”

Emerita Professor Jodi Servatius led the team that in 1998 sketched out plans for the Online Campus and has taught several courses in the graduate education program. She’s witnessed firsthand the advantages the Online Campus gives students.

“Even the availability of a single course being online can make the difference in a student’s (ability) to complete their degree,” she said. “For people who are trying to re-tool for a new job, this is tremendously important.”

While each course is run differently, most are structured around one-week modules containing a set of assignments such as an activity, paper or discussion that must be completed by week’s end, Servatius said.

“Generally speaking, these are not self-paced classes,” she said.

The workload for online courses is comparable to that of on-site courses with one exception: Everyone is expected to contribute to class discussions.

“I really like that you can hear everyone’s voice,” Jardin said. “Getting a bunch of people’s opinion on a subject makes you really learn a subject.”

Students enrolled in the Online Campus also find services, down to the home page that pops up when they log on for class, designed specifically for them.

“The online campus is geared toward someone who never has to come to campus,” Bellone said. “We have online tutoring services. We have online advising services. We’ve tried to put as many forms online as possible.”

Working closely with community colleges throughout the Bay Area, the state Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the CSU Chancellor’s Office, the CSUEB Online Campus’ team is creating clear pathways for community college students who want to complete degrees online.

Additionally, the Online Campus extends CSUEB’s educational reach across state and national boundaries. Servatius’ online students, for instance, represented nearly every state and countries including Brazil, Germany and Iraq.

“We have to plan for the budget crisis and we also have to plan for coming out of it, and we want to come out of it strong,” Bellone said. “There’s a limit to how much we can grow our enrollment on this campus without building a building. With online, there’s no limitation.”

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