Who is served by online courses?

Two thirds of the students in the fall and spring semesters are students enrolled through off-campus locations.  Because of the insufficient number of online offerings to meet student demand, a priority system has been put into place.  Students at a distance are given first priority to enroll for online sections.  Then sections are opened for Big Rapids campus coded students.  This has led to consternation for many, including those who believe that each student should have equal access to an online section.  It has also led to a major processing headache for CPTS as they manage wait lists that get up to 450 students for any semester.  As classes started in Spring 2009, there were still more than 200 students on wait lists.  Among the concerns some in the Colleges have is the cannibalization of face-to-face sections, resulting in lower productivity and shifting schedule needs for on-campus offerings.  Another concern is assessing the readiness level of students.  However, two developments are beginning to minimize that concern.  First, more faculty are reporting that students are more online-ready than in previous years.   Second, by Fall 2009 we expect to have a university system in place that will assure that any student who enrolls in an online course has demonstrated at least minimal competency in using a computer for an online experience.  Some individual instructors and/or some program personnel want to talk with each prospective student before they may enroll.  Therefore, who may enroll varies significantly from program to program.  This is one of the areas where the University needs to establish more consistent processes, while respecting the rights of the Colleges, because this variation is sometimes confusing to our students and creates processing complications.