NJ university is making the online course a requirement

Sunday, October 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TEANECK, N.J. – It sounds like a college student's dream – a university requiring students not to come to class.

Starting next year, new students at Fairleigh Dickinson University will be required to take at least one course a year online. It's believed to be the first college or university to do so.

"We believe it's a transforming learning tool," said J. Michael Adams, president of the 9,000-student university. "If we are preparing global citizens, we believe that our graduates must be facile with the Internet."

The Academic Senate, a faculty group, approved the requirement last month. Next fall, freshmen will choose from about a dozen courses in English literature, global issues and even one about the Internet itself, said Michael Sperling, the university's interim dean.

The school offers 35 online courses, although not all are offered every semester. About 160 students, many of whom are not on campus, are enrolled in those courses, the dean said.

In four years, as successive classes become subject to the online course requirement, the university will develop 50 to 60 new courses, he said. It will spend about $5 million to develop new software and upgrade its network.

A spokesman for a nonprofit group that represents 1,750 university technology officers said he knows of no other university requiring online courses, but he wasn't surprised.

"Others will probably be doing this, too," said Bob Burdick of Educause, based in Boulder, Colo. "The assumption is that students will increasingly demand this kind of service because it offers them a tremendous capability to structure their own time."

But Mr. Burdick said distance learning courses do not appeal to all students and have not translated well in all topics. Technical, mathematical courses seem to be best suited to the Internet, he said. And students who benefit more from close contact with a teacher may not fare as well.

Not being able to talk to a professor after class and not having the peer learning experience that students get inside a classroom could be drawbacks, Mr. Burdick said.

University officials, who will train faculty members to teach on the Internet, said students can still schedule meetings with professors, and some classes will make chat rooms available.