Feature Story

Ohio Wesleyan Faculty Developing Online Summer Courses

January 11, 2016 – by Cole Hatcher

Pilot Project to Enable OWU Students to Take Classes from Anywhere in the World

DELAWARE, Ohio – Whether they are working in Washington, researching in Rome, or interning in India, Ohio Wesleyan University students will be able to take online summer courses – taught by OWU professors – from anywhere in the world.

The Ohio Wesleyan faculty will offer up to six online courses in summer 2016 as part of a two-year pilot project supported by a gift from 1954 OWU graduate David P. Miller of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The initial online courses will be adapted from existing classes and be offered only to currently enrolled OWU students.

“There are several benefits to OWU students of online summer courses,” said N. Kyle Smith, Ph.D., chair of the Academic Policy Committee developing the new program.

“Most importantly, it lets OWU students take OWU courses from OWU professors,” said Smith, also an associate professor of psychology. “Each class is limited to 10 students, so the courses will maintain the close student-faculty interaction that is a hallmark of OWU. It will also open up the summer experience to more of our students.”

Associate Provost Dale Swartzentruber, Ph.D., said additional benefits of online summer courses for OWU students include the “ability to count their grade in their GPA, and they will receive a full unit of credit instead of what is typically a smaller credit value for transfer courses. They can also be assured that the content of the course is appropriate for subsequent OWU courses and for satisfying requirements for an OWU degree.”

Smith said faculty members are submitting proposals now for summer 2016 courses, with the class schedule expected to be announced in early spring. Faculty selected to teach the courses in May and June will participate in spring workshops funded by the Miller gift to help them prepare for the pedagogical shift.

“Many of our faculty are already integrating technology into their traditionally delivered classes,” said Smith, who joined Ohio Wesleyan in 2001. “This is a great opportunity for the faculty to engage in some new teaching practices that they might later choose to integrate into a traditionally taught class.

“For example,” Smith continued, “giving students recorded video feedback for their papers or having class discussions on a message board are common procedures in online classes. Each may also find a place in a traditional class. Some faculty may find that video feedback on papers is clearer to students than written comments. Others may find that message board discussions allow introverted students to participate more fully than they would in a classroom setting.”

Any hardware and software obtained to support the online pilot project also will be available for use in traditional classes, Smith said, potentially benefiting “flipped classrooms” in which students watch lectures outside of class and use class time for discussions, problem sets, or other interactive activities.  

Smith said the faculty is grateful to Miller for his support of the online summer program. “Being able to acquire the necessary hardware, software, and training for faculty and staff lets us get the pilot up and running quickly and with a great chance for success,” he said. “This gift was a vital first step in developing what we hope will become a self-sustaining, pedagogically sound, broadly accessible summer online course program open to all Ohio Wesleyan students.”

Beginning the program as a pilot will enable participating faculty and students to evaluate and, if necessary, make modifications to ensure a learning experience equal to traditional OWU classes. If the pilot is successful, the Academic Policy Committee could vote to expand online offerings in summer 2017, after which the full faculty could decide to make the online summer program a permanent part of the OWU curriculum.

Miller, an economics major who graduated with honors, said he is pleased to help students advance their Ohio Wesleyan educations even while they are away from campus.

“I am confident this initiative will enable students to keep learning during the summer while they work, complete off-campus internships, and continue to build successful futures,” said Miller, who today is president and CEO of Cleveland-based Columbia National Group Inc.

“I am also pleased the online summer program will let professors evaluate new ways of teaching and learning, which could benefit the traditional classroom experience as well.”

In addition to the new Miller gift, Ohio Wesleyan also is able to tap into the existing Bauman Family Foundation Endowment to support the online summer program and other enhancements to support affordability and access for students.

President Rock Jones, Ph.D., said the university is committed to ensuring that an Ohio Wesleyan education is accessible to the widest student population possible and that students are able to graduate on time, or even early, while still experiencing a top-notch liberal arts education.

“Online summer courses for OWU students taught by OWU professors – this provides an important path for students to continue to advance their educations while away from campus,” Jones said. “During summer 2015, for example, more than 200 students, with faculty and staff, participated in travel-learning experiences, internships, research projects, and Theory-to-Practice Grant experiences on six continents.

“Most, if not all, of these students would not have been able to participate in traditional summer school courses,” Jones continued. “Our online summer program creates new and affordable opportunities for students that may even help some to graduate in less than four years. I commend our faculty and thank our generous donors for supporting such initiatives.”

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s curriculum at www.owu.edu/connection and more about giving to the university at www.owu.edu/give.

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers 87 undergraduate majors and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Ohio Wesleyan combines a challenging, internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities to connect classroom theory with real-world experience. OWU’s 1,675 students represent 43 U.S. states and territories and 33 countries. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the latest President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.