Many online courses are scheduled to meet the specific needs of our place-bound students who are studying at a distance. In Fall 2013 Ferris had over 1000 students admitted to online programs, ranging from degree completion programs like Automotive Management and Dental Hygiene to master's degrees in Nursing and Business.
Our online courses also serve our off campus and main campus students. In Fall 2013 approximately 33% of the online student credit hours from online courses were from students admitted to fully online programs or certificates. 25% were from students admitted to an off campus location, and 41% were students admitted to a program on the main campus.
One question asked frequently is Why would students on our main campus be interested in online courses? In many cases, it is simply to provide additional flexibility in their schedules. Although many years ago there was a belief that online courses were 'easier' than the traditional face to face courses, most students now realize that is not the case! In a review of wait list information from Spring 2013 for online English courses, some of the reasons listed by main campus students for wanting an online class included: They worked in addition to going to school, and an online course fit into their schedule better; Students in certain programs did not have any traditional courses available with their schedule due to the scheduling of their major classes (specifically students in "clinicals"who had courses all days on Tuesday/Thursdays and Fridays...eliminating the ability to take our classes scheduled on the typical M/W/F or T/Th model); Students also had family members (aging parents, children) to take care of; Students lived >30 miles away and wanted to eliminate one day of driving.
Online faculty were surveyed in 2011 about a range of topics regarding online education at Ferris. In response to that survey, almost 82% of the faculty who responded indicated that a student orientation should be required before students could take an online course. As a result, the EMAT team began work on a student assessment to be used for any student before they took an online course. This was piloted with 178 students, and based on the results of the pilot, a system was developed and implemented in the summer of 2013.
You can see our presentation on the results of the pilot under FSU Surveys and Reports, or by using this link: http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/online/facultyresources/documents/EMAT/Sloanpresentation2013.pdf
You can learn more about the process for the current orientation from Faculty Resources or via this link: http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/online/facultyresources/OROforstaff.htm
The number of available sections is insufficient to meet current demand. Online sections typically fill shortly after registration begins. Much of this backlog is in general education courses, where we either need to add additional teaching capacity or need to prioritize our various offerings (on campus, off campus, online). The departments often want to manage this student demand because the students are often enrolled in face-to-face sections, and when they can get into an online section, they drop the face-to-face option. The university faces a dilemma of having fewer online options than our student population is demanding. In some cases, there is a shortage of current faculty who are prepared or willing to teach fully online. This gap between student interests and program responsiveness is the subject of continuing dialogue. At some universities, on-campus students may only enroll after the face-to-face sections are filled. However, in a competitive environment and with an increasingly tech-savvy student who wants online options, Ferris’ inability to meet students’ demands may put us at a strategic disadvantage at a time when student enrollments are especially critical to our continued viability.
Currently, our approach to offering online sections is an attempt to meet the demand of both off campus/online students as well as main campus students. Off campus and online students are given three weeks of "priority registration time". During these three weeks, main campus students are restricted from registering for these online sections. After that period elapses, the restrictions are removed, and any student meeting the prerequisites may register.
In 2014, an additional feature available in Banner was implemented, which is the integrated wait list feature. Once a section is full, a student who meets the prerequisites may add their names to a wait list. The wait list is processed on a first-come first-served method, and is processed automatically via banner and email. This new system will not only serve the students well with no additional effort by departmental staff, but will also provide leadership with critical information on student class needs, for better planning in the future.