Baylor expands online course offerings

Baylor’s online summer school added four new programs for students to take in 2016. Last summer marked the first time online courses were offered to undergraduate students. Until then, they were only available for graduate programs.

Arts and sciences summer courses

The first round of the pilot program for arts and science courses filled up in two days of being posted. The College of Arts and Sciences will increase the spots from 100 to 240, said Dr. Blake Burleson, associate dean of undergraduate studies.

“It’s a way to help students catch up and stay ahead,” Burleson said.

The program ran for its first semester this past summer. The goal of the summer courses is to help students complete Baylor in four years.

The individual instructor designs each course, but all courses are synchronous. Each course has a meeting time meant to encourage interaction between students and instructors. Students are still asked to fill out course evaluations at the session’s end.

MBA courses

The MBA program is one of the first online programs students can complete solely online. The program is designed for the working professional who can’t come to campus.

The goal is to have students use their jobs and experiences from work, apply that to the classroom and learn from their classmates in a virtual environment, said Laurie Wilson, director of graduate business degree programs.

“If we can work in this virtual environment, why can’t we learn in the same way?” Wilson said.

The MBA program at Baylor focuses on developing potential leaders. There’s been a strong demand from students who want an MBA with a strong brand. The program started in May 2014 and has run for six terms. Classes are asynchronous for the purpose of fitting the schedule of the working student; however, students are encouraged to work on their course work every day.

School of Social Work

The School of Social Work has been using the online format for years to offer course to students, said Dr. Jon Singletary, interim dean of the School of Social Work.

The use of the online format within the School of Social Work started with an internship course where students reflected on their time as interns.

“Most people think of online course work in the terms of old-fashioned correspondences courses. Our students meet at scheduled class times,” Singletary said.

The courses in the School of Social Work do require that students meet in-person at set times. This seminar style of class is used in tandem with a virtual classroom to offer master level courses to more students. The program is mainly used to reach a broader base of students who can’t study in Waco.

“It’s worked out well for us. Students feel as prepared as their [on-campus] peers,” Singletary said.

School of Nursing

Four years ago, the administrators of Baylor Scott and White Health, formally the Baylor Health Care System, requested the creation of an online program to help their nurses in middle management positions. The courses were designed to focus on leadership and management development. This paved the way for the online Master’s of Science in Nursing program, which started in Spring 2015.

“Nurse managers work more than 40 hours a week. Most full-time employees don’t have time to take off a few days for school,” said Dr. Linda Plank, associate dean for academic affairs at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing.

This program is also completed fully online and works within the traditional academic calendar. However, the courses are scheduled in 5-week sessions rather than the traditional fall and spring semesters. Students focus on a course for five weeks before moving to the next one.

A BSN and current employment in a nursing management position is required to apply to the program. This is the second online program available through the nursing school after the DNP in neonatal nursing.

Plank and Dr. Cheryl Riley, coordinator of the neonatal nurse practitioner program, wrote the initial proposal for the neonatal program to have an online side, which opened the door for not only this online program but those in other departments.

“We’re very enthusiastic about this program. It’s going well. We have support from Baylor Scott and White, the Baylor campus in Waco, and faculty and students,” Plank said.

Putting it into practice

Dr. Sandy Bennett, assistant director of Online Teaching and Learning Services, said her office focuses on the online aspects of the Baylor online programs. The service works with faculty to redesign courses for online participation. This includes changing and adjusting assessments, such as tests and quizzes, for an online format. These courses are formatted for Canvas only.

“Professors have to be prepared up front,” Wilson said of the instructors working in the MBA program.

Instructors participating in the Arts and Sciences program mentioned similar issues, Burleson said. There’s a great deal of preparation involved in transferring and creating material for online courses, he said.

Many professors within the MBA program have taken their experiences from online and used them in their on-campus courses.

“I think it’ll be helpful for students,” said Dallas senior Sean Browning.