By Jaci Schneider, Opinion Editor
About 150 students earned English and Bible credits while enjoying their vacation this summer.
The students took Major British Writers I and Message of the Old Testament online during their summer break.
The inaugural session for online courses went smoothly, said George Saltsman, the director of educational technology and distance education.
“We definitely learned a lot, but overall it was extremely successful,” Saltsman said. “There were a few minor glitches that everybody expected.”
Glitches such as difficulty setting up an instant messaging program for some students’ computers for live discussions, and confusion about textbooks caused minor difficulties, but nothing too terrible to deal with, Saltsman said.
A team of faculty developed the courses beginning last Christmas, he said. Before classes could begin, faculty had to be trained, Banner Web had to be set up for billing, technological issues had to be worked out and courses had to be developed. All aspects of campus were involved, Saltsman said.
“It was absolutely a team-based approach,” he said. “Everyone did a phenomenal job.”
Although many aspects factored into the online courses, two played very important roles in their success, said Dr. KB Massingill, chief information officer and director of the Adams Center.
Massingill said Team 55 made the courses possible.
“I’m pretty proud of Team 55,” he said. “If you don’t have tech support, a tech-based course is not going to work.”
Another key to the success of the program was the unique mentor/teacher relationship built into the courses, Massingill said.
Rodney Ashlock, instructor of Bible, ministry and missions, and Dr. Kyle Dickson, assistant professor of English, developed the content of the courses in their department and mentored the professors throughout the summer.
“Very rarely do you have that dynamic opportunity,” Massingill said. “It was kind of exciting, really.
“It takes the quality level of the courses up.”
Dr. Jonathan Wade taught a five-week English class online over the summer. He said he really enjoyed teaching online.
“It is quite a different experience for students and for the teachers,” Wade said in an e-mail. He added that he had more time to keep up with grading, student concerns and discussions rather than focusing on classroom experiences.
“One misconception some students had was that the online classes would take less time than a regular summer class,” he said. “Summer school, no matter what the format, is pretty grueling for everyone involved. Students had to read a good bit of material and write a great deal. ”
However, he added that online courses have some positives.
“The online format does allow for a bit more flexibility,” Wade said.