Sunday, 14 January 2007
Getting my feet wet: implementing Online Ocean Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio
Exhibit Hall C (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), with approximately 27,000 students, is the only public 4-year undergraduate through postgraduate degree offering institution in San Antonio, TX, the 8th largest city in the U.S. UTSA is also a recognized minority serving institution (Hispanic Serving Institution or HSI), one that graduates more Bachelor of Science degrees in biology than any other HSI in the country. Despite this large student enrollment, UTSA offers only 30 distance learning courses; a very small number. When one considers the Texas State demographer's predicted growth in student enrollment of 630,000 new college students in Texas by 2015, it is apparent that distance learning will have to become a more significant component of the higher education landscape in Texas. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board takes an active role in encouraging delivery of online curricula and has established specific criteria for both development and assessment of online courses.
To assist faculty with their online courseware, UTSA has an Office for Distance-Learning. Services provided by this office include developing templates for a “front-end” for courseware and help to interface WebCT course management software. The American Meteorological Society's Online Ocean Studies will be a first experience with an online course for the author and the following suggestions were provided by the Office for Distance-Learning at UTSA: (1) cap the course at a small number (approximately 30); (2) use a hybrid approach with “face-to-face” meetings about once every two weeks; (3) carefully consider student assessment, perhaps using online formative assessments and in-class summative assessments; and (4) be prepared for accessibility issues. This latter point may be a challenge as specific student needs are not made available until classes begin, thus providing little time to identify needed assistive technology.