UW-Stout Courses Offered Through America Online

UW-Stout courses offered through America Online

Students anywhere in the country are now able to take selected courses at UW-Stout in the comfort of their own home, thanks to computer technology and a commitment to new course delivery systems.

UW-Stout and the Electronic University Network are offering courses through America Online, making them available to virtually anyone with a home computer. Participants are provided with America Online's latest software in DOS, Windows or Mac formats to match their equipment.

Christopher Smith, outreach program manager in UW-Stout's Office of Continuing Education/Extension, developed the service used for the first time last spring. Assistant professor Carole Flint and lecturer Susanne Johnston, both from UW-Stout's English department, were the first instructors to teach on the university's new "virtual" campus on America Online. They teach technical writing to students as far away as St. Louis.

"This is an ideal medium for this type of course," said Flint, who has taught technical writing at UW-Stout for 20 years. "Each week students check their electronic mail, post responses to folders in our bulletin board environment and send us assignments in attached files," she said.

"Students who participate online tend to get a great deal more personal interaction with faculty," Johnston noted. "They get personal responses to their messages within hours of posting." Johnston and Flint agree, however, that the personal interaction also leads to more work for instructors than usual in typical classroom settings.

"This is just the beginning for exciting new ways of delivering instruction in the information age," Smith said. "Outreach managers have dreamed of the day when it would be cost effective to provide courses to people bound by place and time, unable to attend classes without leaving their home communities and jobs." He added that because of such programs, people in a variety of fields will be able to update their skills without disrupting their careers or families. "Individuals across the country, now choosing not to access university campuses because of distance, disability or family obligations, can now take courses using their modem-equipped computer to participate in classes," he said. "Online students meet with their instructors in real time, socialize with other students, and obtain instructional resources using the electronic conferencing facilities of the Electronic University Network and America Online."

Smith said he has been pleased with the response for classes planned for the fall. "Registration is still open," he said. "We are certain that, as more people learn about the availability of courses online, enroll-ments will grow."

"Taking courses beyond the campus is not new in itself," Smith said. "We have been sending instructors to distant locations for many years, and using new technologies to extend the university's reach as they become available and financially feasible. But here, through the use of home computers, neither the instructor nor the student is burdened by frequent or lengthy travel to classrooms or downlink sites."

Smith said the university extension office is expanding its online offerings quickly. Full degree programs are anticipated. Non-credit in-service training offerings are also being delivered online for employees of state agencies using the Office of Continuing Education/Extension's new Education Bulletin Board Server.

Students who are interested in learning more about the current course offerings also have online access to information about the university. An unexpected result has been numerous inquiries about UW-Stout's traditionally delivered graduate programs.

Persons who want more information may contact Smith at 715/232-2693.

Outlook Fall '95