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UGA ramps up online learning offerings

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UGA ramps up online learning offerings

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January 20, 2013

The Office of Online Learning is working with University of Georgia faculty to plan and implement a new, more consistent online format for high-demand undergraduate courses. Instructional designers in the Office of Online Learning, as well as instructional designers based in UGA's schools and colleges, are partnering with the Center for Teaching and Learning to assist 36 faculty during the spring semester to have 34 new online courses available in the summer. 

Online courses across numerous disciplines have been offered to UGA students for the last decade through OASIS, the Online Access to Student Information Systems. These courses, which include a number of graduate courses, have been developed independently by faculty members to provide an alternative format outside of the traditional classroom setting. Until now, there has not been a single source of support for faculty who wish to provide an online course. 

Recognizing changing technology trends and the way in which today's students learn, the university has made increasing student access to courses through online education a top priority, as outlined in the UGA 2020 Strategic Plan and in UGA's 2012 Complete College Georgia Plan in partnership with the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. With the establishment of the Office of Online Learning in July 2012, the university has taken giant steps in providing a comprehensive resource for support and assistance for faculty who want to offer courses online for students.

The high-demand undergraduate courses will include a variety of subject areas, including English; Romance languages; mathematics; biology, geography, poultry science; education; and several courses in business and family and consumer sciences.

"Our goal is to provide access to students who want to continue their education while they are away from campus on an internship, traveling with a study abroad course or on summer break. In addition to providing an alternative to courses in heavy student demand that fill up quickly, or for students who need to work an additional class into their schedules, online access also may allow us to reach new student populations," said Kris Biesinger, interim director of the Office of Online Learning.

Training for faculty began on Dec. 5 with an orientation workshop outlining expectations and goals of online learning. The training staff emphasized the importance of consistency of organizational structure within the online classes to allow a more seamless learning experience. Faculty also are trained to adhere to accessibility guidelines, making sure to give the classes a similar online style and provide text for any video or audio used. 

Faculty will be able to use video and audio options provided within the eLearningCommons, and other tools like Wimba and podcasts, to create an interactive format to aid faculty-student communication throughout the course. 

Faculty will still have office hours. Faculty and students may choose to set up Skype or online chat sessions, while others may opt for telephone or face-to-face meetings for local students.   

The 36 participating faculty-who include teaching award recipients-have online teaching experience from one semester to 11 years. They participated in the inaugural formal training for a number of reasons including wanting to learn new teaching methods and wanting to be more responsive to student issues.

The Office of Online Learning will continue to work with faculty over the spring semester to provide workshops, consultations and training support, as well as to guide faculty through the development and teaching process using instructional design. This semester the focus is on high-demand undergraduate classes. Beginning this summer, training will become available to any faculty member interested in developing an online course-undergraduate or graduate. 

More information about the development of online courses and the program proposal process may be found at http://ugaonline.uga.edu/.