This story, which appeared on page 4A, incorrectly stated the cost per credit hour for evening courses at Columbia College. The fee is $150 per credit hour. This online version has been corrected.
Melody Troesser’s two children know Saturday morning is reserved for Mama’s studying.
Troesser, a 43-year-old controller at Callaway Community Hospital, is one of thousands of students who take online courses at Columbia College. She said she loves the convenience of not having to commute to Columbia from her home in Fulton.
“If I go home in the middle of the afternoon, I can do school work versus having to be in Columbia at 7 p.m. for three hours,” said Troesser, who is earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
The only online degree offered by Columbia College is in criminal justice administration, which was first made available in 2001. But students can now register to take more than 200 courses online, and college administrators hope to eventually make all degrees available through online coursework.
The North Central Association, which accredits Columbia College, began evaluating whether to allow the school to put more degrees online this fall. The committee that visited the college said the association was likely to approve the plan, said Terry Smith, vice president and dean for academic affairs.
Business administration and psychology degrees will probably be the next degree programs available through online course work, Smith said.
“Obviously, it’s in our interest to get this approval taken care of as soon as possible,” Smith said. “We’re ready and able to offer these degrees on the Web.”
Online classes are a bit more expensive than other Columbia College courses — $175 per credit hour versus $150 for evening courses on campus. Five eight-week online sessions are offered each year, and about 4,500 students are signed up for the coming term.
The college began to offer online courses because many faculty members were using the Internet as a teaching tool, Smith said. And of the 32 Columbia College campuses scattered around the country, half are on military bases, she said, where the demand for online courses is high.
“If we were to maintain this presence of land campuses on military bases, we had to go online,” Smith said.
While online teaching is a new experience for many teachers and instructors, Joann Wayman, a business administration professor, said it is rewarding.
“I’ve enjoyed it; it’s been a challenge,” said Wayman, who has taught online courses for several years.
Bill Carney, assistant director of Columbia’s evening program, has taught history courses online for a year. He said building the right learning environment — “a sense of classroom when there is no classroom” — is the most challenging part of online teaching.
Carney said that although measuring student comprehension can be difficult in the cyber classroom, new methods are being developed to ensure that students in online courses learn as much as others.
“If you send out an assignment or have students take a test, you may not know until after the fact that they really had a problem with something,” Carney said. “In a classroom, if a student has a question, bam, you can answer. Communication online depends on how fast you can respond to each other.”
Troesser said her online instructors have made an extra effort to reach out to their students in cyberspace.
“The professors have been very well attuned to the problems and challenges it presents to really work with you if you have a problem,” she said. “The response time is amazing.”