University of Akron increasing class variety at Holmes campus
By CHRISTINE L. PRATT Staff Writer Published: May 10, 2014 4:00AM
MILLERSBURG -- The University of Akron is again changing the way it delivers higher education to Holmes County residents.
The Wayne College Holmes Campus is expanding course offerings by making use of a redesigned and upgraded distance learning lab, in which Millersburg students are linked to real-time classrooms at Wayne College, the Medina County University Center and UA Lakewood.
"Having successfully doubled our DL offerings in each of the past two years, we hope to continue that upward trend by tapping into the nearly 500 credits of programming offered each semester by the University of Akron through its various locations," according to a press release issued by the university.
The program was rolled out April 25 during a demonstration for the campus' advisory group, who not only peeked in on an English composition, but explored the new program, via distance discussion.
Heading the composition class, senior college lecturer Elizabeth Rhoades said she has been teaching via distance learning for several years and has become a great believer in the program, in which through smart boards, video communication and Internet databases, she's able to keep students, even far away, engaged in class.
Technology allows her to see and hear students at remote locations through a simple push of a button, she said, noting despite the physical distance that separates them, students can develop relationships with others in the class.
The arrangement helps smaller campuses overcome enrollment minimums for course offerings, making available a wider variety of classes. It also opens the door to advanced training in trades and continuing education for certain professions.
Given her experience, Rhoades said there's little that can't be done by distance learning. "I didn't think you could do a writing class through distance learning, but now I love teaching here."
The distance learning lab is arranged to also allow team teaching with an on-site instructor, a concept the university will better explore through a series of demonstrations in May, said Jim Tressel, executive vice president for student success, noting distance communication is not only becoming an effective form of education, it's an emerging practice in the world of business.
"In today's very small world, interaction with people all over the world is going to be commonplace," he said, noting he expects this to take the place, at least in part, of what previously has required expensive corporate travel.
"We want our students to be very comfortable with it," he said.
Because of its reliance on technology, the distance learning classes also teach students how to become more focused listeners and clear speakers. And, because the program allows students from one area to intermingle with students of different backgrounds, Jeanette Carson, manager of audio visual and distance learning services, said it helps to promote tolerance and understanding through earlier exposure.
Since implementing the program, the university has seen tangible results in enrollment, with a larger number of local graduates selecting the University of Akron, she said, adding full participation in the post-secondary option enables students to save $11,000-$14,000 and graduate high school with 12-24 college credit hours.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg of where we're able to get. I think we'll get to the point where we can do even engineering labs through distance learning," said Tressel.
For more information about programs offered at the Wayne College Holmes Campus, call 330-674-2514.