Bill Page remembers when he used to receive a videotape in the mail each week, watch it, and send it back—to work on his master’s degree in the Interdisciplinary Telecom Program. Then came a time when he attended class using streaming video.
Times have changed. Today, he’s still a distance student, but his options for accessing the lectures have exploded. He prefers to watch his classes on the laptop, “but many times I’ve been in situations where I can’t get to my laptop and I discovered I could watch the class on my iPhone,” he says.
Page balances his full-time career, his family, and his graduate studies. “I can pause the class and interact with my family,” he says, and when time is scarce he can even just listen to lectures while traveling.
For many students, earning a master’s degree wouldn’t be possible without the flexibility of a distance education option—and students now have both flexibility of when they watch a class and versatility of what device they use.
With the adoption rate for mobile devices continuing to rise quickly, distance education programs face the challenge of offering new types of remote access. Page sometimes uses an iPad, especially while traveling back and forth from Washington, D.C., where he goes for work.
Using these devices, CU engineering students can select from a flexible set of graduate engineering programs that offer full master’s degrees, graduate specialty certificates, and classes that they can take in person, from a distance, or both. Unlike the graduate programs of other universities, this select set offers the same courses on campus and from a distance. Students don’t lose anything by studying from afar, and can come to class anytime.
Robert Loomas Jr. is a distance student pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. “I love the flexibility of watching classes online,” he says. “It frees me up to be able to respond to clients at class time and still see the whole class.”
Loomas talks about how he can have class from 9:30 to 11:00, but as an IT consultant he has to be available to take calls from his clients or respond to emergencies. Many times, “a customer calls, and I can take time to put out the fire.” When that happens, he stops the class that he has downloaded and starts it up again when he can focus on it.
“I have no doubt that this degree will change my career,” says Loomas. He has some advice for distance graduate students: “Be diligent: sit down and watch the lectures, and ask questions using email and the phone.” Loomas corresponds with professors frequently.
Another benefit is that distance students can stop a lecture, rewind it, and play an important part over again to make sure they understand complicated or challenging material. Students can keep replaying lectures until they’re confident that they grasp the concepts.
The emergence and swift adoption of mobile devices is adding new dimensions to distance education.•
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