Greater enrollment numbers come with more online classes

Katie Grunewald

Iowa State marked its seventh year of growth in enrollment numbers, and with that growth of students comes a need for more ways to learn.

The number of online classes offered at Iowa State has been increasing the last few years, this fall nearly 300 classes are offered for students to take in the luxury of their own home.

Thomas Brumm, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering in charge of online learning for the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, sees demand growing.

“Part of the reason there are so many online classes is because of the demand there is,” Brumm said. “Students like on online classes, and sometimes they prefer to take them over a face-to-face course.”

Students can enroll in all physical courses, all online-only courses or a combination of both, something not offered at all universities.

ISU students enrolled in a combination of online and physical courses increased by 40 percent during the fiscal year 2012, and the number of students in online-only courses increased by more than 25 percent.

Brittany Uitermark, sophomore in event management, has taken three online classes since she started at Iowa State.

“I prefer online classes,” Uitermark said. “It’s a lot easier to not go to class and have to sit in lecture when I can just read the lecture online.”

Uitermark had to retake a face-to-face class she had taken before. She opted to take the course for the second time online and her grade improved considerably.

John Pleasants, adjunct assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, who teaches four courses this fall that are offered as online-only, but he has previously taught them in the classroom also.

“Online courses are popular, and I offer the same advice at the beginning of each course: Don’t procrastinate,” Pleasants said. “My students tend to do better in the online sections. I’m not 100 percent sure why, but you can be successful in the online section when you don’t procrastinate.”

One of the main benefits of online classes for students is getting immediate feedback from professors on their assignments.

Brumm teaches one class with two sections this fall: one face-to-face and one online. He puts in extra time to make sure his online students do not miss out on interacting with him just because they are in the online section.

“I have to work harder on thinking about who my online audience is and providing them opportunities to interact with me they miss out on because they’re not sitting in the class with me,” Brumm said. “To accommodate for that I offer online office hours, students can log in and talk and interact with me.”

In 2012, Iowa State increased the number of online classes it offers for undergraduate students by 30 percent and increased the number offered for graduate students by three percent.

Today, Iowa State offers 20 different online master’s degree programs and 15 graduate certificates, something unique to the university.

Enrollment is expected to be about 32,000 students this fall. Official numbers will be released on Sept. 11 and is expected to break the record set last fall.

In addition to offering more online courses, the new Troxell Hall has been established as a brand new lecture hall for classes, and the Student Experience Enhancement Council was created.

“We created the Student Experience Enhancement Council a little while ago,” said President Steven Leath earlier this semester. “They are looking at all aspects related to the experience: classrooms, seats on the CyRide buses, etc.”

Students interested in enrolling in online classes can do so just like any other class offered at Iowa State.

“Online classes are not the only tool that us professors have at our disposal, but they’re a great one,” Brumm said.