Faculty, students warm up to online courses

Brad Stout

Online courses continue to be a growing trend among faculty and students at Missouri Southern, according to a presentation given by Scott Snell, director of the distance learning program.

The latest data was presented during the Jan. 16 Board of Governors meeting held in the Billingsley Student Center, and shows the number of online courses and online student enrollment has steadily increased since 2012.

“We peaked kind of back in 2010, and then we dipped towards 2012,” said Snell regarding online enrollment numbers. “Since 2012, I think we’re trending back up. We look a little flat, but I think we’re trending.”

Over 2,000 students are currently enrolled in Southern’s 385 online courses, and 768 of those students are enrolled exclusively in online courses. According to Snell, the Plaster School of Business accounts for the most online courses offered within a program at MSSU, with the number of online and hybrid courses outnumbering course offerings with traditional class settings.

In addition to online course and enrollment numbers, Snell presented the board with the most recent features to make their way to the Blackboard system.

One such feature allows administrators to measure students’ performance based on a number of goals created within the Blackboard system. Administrators can also measure how often students log in, and how much time they spend in their online environment, and monitor grade performance — all via the new Blackboard retention center.

Another change allows students to keep track of instructor notes, academic notices and due dates for each class in a single calendar, as opposed to the individual calendars previously provided for each class.

“The institution has invested in this department,” said Snell. “We’ve added instructional designers and added an academic advising team. There’s a whole office dedicated to the academic advising of our online students.”