Staff Reporter

Acting president Tim Sands introduced a discussion on online learning on Tuesday, revealing that federal support for research at the University is down, a loss that the University plans to recover with revenues from online courses.

Sands said that federal support has dropped 26 percent, and awards are down 24 percent overall.

The event in Fowler Hall was attended by about 150 of the University’s faculty and staff members. It was paneled by Dale Harris from the College of Engineering Timothy Newby from the College of Education Ananth Iyer, associate dean of graduate studies from the School of Management, and Mary Sadowski, dean of Purdue’s extended campus.

“We’ve got to find other ways to find the revenue to replace what has been essentially lost from the state,” Sands said.

According to Sands and the panelists, online courses are a viable option for creating a source of revenue for the University without creating too much in expenditures.

The event was attended

mostly by faculty and staff, who were able to ask questions after Harris, Newby and Iyer discussed the online programs in their colleges.

However, during the question-and-answer session, some audience members did not think due to the fact that platforms, such as Blackboard, have become unreliable.

A math professor said that, in the beginning, online homework and lectures proved to be relatively adequate, given that students could do their homework whenever they wanted and could receive immediate feedback.

“Our experience is that weaker students tend to prefer the online courses,” the professor said. “Perhaps because they are not so motivated, they fall behind. One advantage of online is that it’s very flexible, but you have to be disciplined to not abuse this flexibility.”

On the other hand, Newby argued that with Deltak, the corporation the College of Education uses to facilitate their online courses in learning design and technology, a student services representative notifies professors when students have continually not logged in to their online course.

“They’ve taken over all of the things that professors don’t want to do, which frees them up to do more creative things,” Newby said.

The second priority of online education that Sands discussed was to expand Purdue’s global reach, reputation and revenue.

Sands brought up MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, as a possible option. These are defined by the Chronicle of Higher Education as “classes that are taught online to large numbers of students, with minimal involvement by professors,” and are usually free and non-credit courses. Students enrolled in MOOCs generally watch video lectures and complete assignments online that are graded by a machine. That way, a single professor can teach a class of hundreds of thousands of students.

“There’s talk that if you’re not in the game, you’re going to miss the wave,” Sands said.

He added that the University is doing research to determine what is drawing people to these courses so that its online courses can provide the same appeal, and achieve the same distance education.

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