University discusses online classes

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Imagine the experience of college where there was no such thing as attendance records, hand-in paper assignments or stiff, uniform desks. This transformation may be a reality for students at Pacific in the future as colleges around the world move from the classroom construct to an era of virtual education.

“The use of online aspects would be to utilize classroom time better,” said university president Lesley Hallick during an interview on Feb. 25.

Hallick shared ideas for classroom reform, explaining strategies that utilize technology to offer a better in-class learning environment. Hallick said the administration has discussed flipped classes, which allow access to all lectures online so students can read over the material prior to class and engage in an in-depth discussion about the material during class time.

The administration has also discussed offering traditional online classes. Hallick said the administration has looked closely at offering whole programs online, such as some of the graduate level health professions degrees, for students who are place bound or hold full time jobs while attending college.

For undergraduates, Hallick said there is discussion about offering online classes during the summer. For students in Hawaii, broadcasting classes from Pacific to the new Hawaii office in Honolulu during winter term is a possibility in the future.

The motive behind such proposals are using technology optimally to engage students both inside and outside the confines of a classroom said Hallick.

Yet, with all of these technologically advanced teaching ideas in mind, philosophy professor Dave Boersema worries what the loss of face-to-face communication will do to the close-knit integrity of Pacific University.

“I believe the best teaching is together in class where we can interact directly with one another,” said Boersema. “There is a feel and chemistry in a classroom that cannot come through online teaching.”

In response to concerns about online classes, Hallick said the plan is not to abolish faculty and student relationships, but to use technology to the benefit of students and professors.

“When I talk to alumni of five years to 50 years out, their relationship with faculty is their best memory here and to erode that would be a big mistake,” said Hallick.

Although the administration does not want to affect the close-knit community at Pacific, the type of learning online classes promote still concerns faculty members such as Boersema.

“I suspect online classes are inevitable. I think that’s a shame and, again, I think why should a student pay private college tuition for something they could get elsewhere much cheaper? I wouldn’t do it,” said Boersema.  “A major reason for coming to a small college is for that close, personal mentoring that comes from personal interactions.”

Offering online classes at Pacific is still in the preliminary stages. Hallick encourages students to contact her with ideas and concerns related to online classes.


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