Going the Distance Online
In order to reach adult students without the worry of geographical boundaries, Bethel has launched its distance education program. The nursing program successfully pioneered online learning with undergraduate traditional students, and now the nontraditional studies program has jumped on board, allowing nontraditional students everywhere the ability to take classes at their convenience using online course work.
“Nontraditional programs need to be offered in flexible formats,” says Randy Gunden, director of nontraditional studies and distance education. “Students are normally working and flexibility in meeting student needs is critical for success.”
Currently only select general education courses taught by faculty with prior experience and/or an interest in distance education are being offered says Gunden. But even though the program, which was launched the summer of ’09, is largely in an experimental phase, Gunden says high enrollment in classes, coupled with strong student satisfaction and demands for increased course offerings, have proven it to be a success.
“By and large there were positive experiences,” says Terry Linhart, chair of the religion and philosophy department and the head of the distance education taskforce. Linhart taught exploring the Christian faith and says the evaluations for the course were more positive than many classes that met face-to-face.
“I was actually quite pleased with the way it went the first time around,” says Linhart, adding that he’ll make a few minor technology-based changes to the course. In that class, Linhart taught a student from as far away as Texas. “We’re hoping, and the goal is, to offer Bethel courses all across the United States and even internationally,” says Linhart of the program.