Web classes impersonal, students say

Despite the fact that several Texas universities make undergraduate online courses available, TCU decides not to offer them, said a coordinator for electronic learning.Public schools such as the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of North Texas all offer online courses to undergraduates.

Many private universities, including TCU, have chosen to keep their universities personal by only offering on-site classes, said Romy Hughes, coordinator of eLearning in the Center for Teaching Excellence.

“It’s not like we’re the only university not offering online classes with a sore thumb sticking out,” she said.

Bill Moncrief, senior associate dean of the School of Business, said the school offered an online marketing course three years ago in which students met once a week in the classroom and once a week online. However, Moncrief said, there was not a student demand for the class.

“Frankly, students didn’t like it,” he said.

Hughes said TCU students have spoken out against online courses.

“In 2003, a handful of students were invited to attend a Vision in Action meeting,” she said. “The feedback was that students want a traditional face-to-face environment.”

Preston DuBose, marketing coordinator for distance education at A&M, said it has seen many advantages to offering online courses.

“By offering online classes, students can work during the day and get in all their required courses,” he said. “It also helps with scheduling conflicts.”

Ali Castellano, a sophomore movement science major, took an online biology course last summer at a community college in St. Louis and said some students learn better by themselves.

“It was definitely nice because you didn’t have to go to class and you could focus on the material instead of worrying about class,” she said. “You’re taking twice as much time by going to class and doing the work at home.”

Online courses have their disadvantages as well, DuBose said.

“It takes discipline,” he said. “Online classes still follow the same format, but it’s ultimately still up to the student to get the work done.”

Hughes said offering online classes would mean an extra cost to students who enroll in them, depending on how many hours the student would take.

“It would be the same cost masters-degree students pay for online courses,” Hughes said.

Holly Jeter, a senior radio-TV-film major, said the extra fees would be ridiculous.

“We pay enough to have a real professor and a classroom environment,” she said.

DuBose said A&M has not seen a huge demand for online classes from its students.

“Professors try it out and it has slowly gotten better and better each semester,” he said.

According to the school’s Web site, A&M offers complete undergraduate online courses in such subjects such as writing, biology, health, and math.