Are you thinking about enrolling in an online class? If so, you'll be in good company. According to the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, yearly enrollment in distance learning rose by nearly one million students from 2008 to 2009. The survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide finds approximately 5.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2009.
Employers are demanding even more education from their employees because of the current economic climate and the rapidly changing job market. This has resulted in increased enrollment in professional master's degree programs that yield significant job opportunities at graduation. If you are a typical working professional, you may not have the ability to drop everything and go back to college for one to two years.
Launched in 1983, CU-Boulder's Center for Advanced Engineering and Technology Education (CAETE) is the distance-learning arm for graduate studies in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Offering numerous master's degree and graduate certificate options, the center delivers courses via the Internet using digital capture that incorporates audio, video, and other media such as slides, movies, and photos. One of the advantages of CAETE's current technology is that you see the actual class lecture. These are not canned courses—you attend the same class as on-campus students.
Mark Dehus, application and research manager for CAETE, is gearing up the center's technology for the next wave of worldwide students. "Two major projects are underway to enhance the student's online learning experience," says Dehus. "The first, synchronous collaboration, will enable real-time interaction within the classroom."
Students from a distance will be able to join in on class discussion, ask questions, and provide comments in real time. "There are other institutions using forms of video conferencing in the classroom, but it requires students to go to a particular location to be part of the conference," says Mario Vidalon, director of CAETE. "Our technology will bring the institution to each student's doorstep."
In the next few months the center also will roll out a new social-media-based portal that will facilitate student-to-student collaboration through text and video chat. "Imagine a student from the Far East connecting live with students in Denver, Ann Arbor, and Austin to prepare for midterms, or even a group project," says Dehus, who is designing the portal for CAETE. Live chat, live texting, and virtual study groups … move over, Zuckerberg!