Feature Story

June 16, 2016 | By Julia Stone ’16

Jessica Sanford ’17 is working full-time in Washington, D.C., this summer as well as taking two of Ohio Wesleyan’s online summer courses. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Sanford ’17)

Summertime Classes To-Go

Students Pleased with Convenience, Caliber of OWU’s Online Classes

Ohio Wesleyan University student Jessica Sanford ’17 is spending her summer working full-time as a political coordinator at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington, D.C. As if that’s not enough, she also is adding a second minor to her double-major and completing her general requirements this summer by taking two OWU online classes.

Sanford is enrolled in “Exploring Computer Science” with Professor Sean McCulloch and “Religions of the West” with Professor David Eastman. For the first time this summer, Ohio Wesleyan is offering six online courses that can be taken from anywhere in the world.

“Taking my two online courses through OWU has allowed me to pick up another minor and to finish off my last science credit, so going into my senior year I won’t have to worry about general requirements anymore,” says Sanford, a politics and government and international studies major with minors in French and religion.

“It is surprisingly easy to take an hour twice per week to log on to our scheduled lecture on Google Hangouts group,” she notes. “At work, I also sometimes find the time to re-listen to lectures and that is when I take notes, as if I were in an actual classroom lecture.”

Sanford says the engaging online lectures create an illusion of an in-person class, and she appreciates how prompt her professors are at answering questions via email.

“Dr. McCulloch and Dr. Eastman have been so helpful,” she says. “They email the class often with clarifications and answers to foreseeable questions.

“I’m no computer whiz, and after this class I still won’t be,” she continues, “but because I am motivated by the condensed time frame of the course and by getting good grades, I find it easy to stay engaged in the online course.”

Ruchi Kansal ’16, a computer science major, also is enjoying her online class, especially the flexibility of the course times.

“Even if you are not able to attend the class online, Professor McCulloch records it so we can catch up easily afterwards,” says Kansal, a management economics major. “But no matter what the medium of a course is, the studying manner is always the same.”

Professors decide on the format of their online courses based on the content. Professor Shala Hankison, who is teaching “Evolution” online, does not require class meeting times, but students must be in contact through online office hours, online chats, or emails twice prior to each exam.

“My favorite parts of the course are when I have had email discussions or online chats with my students,” says Hankison, an OWU alumna. “Because students are required to be in contact, I hear from all of them, and some students are really engaged and have a lot of feedback.

“I think because I am often meeting with students one-on-one, they feel comfortable discussing ideas and questions that might not have come up in class,” she continues.

Hankison created short web-lectures, links to videos and documentaries, computer-based labs and simulations, and various other assignments. She appreciates how students can tailor the online course to suit their needs. Instead of going at the set class pace, they can spend more or less time on certain sections based on their level of understanding.

“The challenge, aside from getting the course started, has been trying to keep track of what everyone is doing and giving people appropriate feedback at the right times,” she says. “Because students are working at their own pace, I need to make sure to recognize where they are in the course.”

Hankison advises students to be self-motivated and to seek out their instructors as often as possible. “We still want to be engaged with our students and to give them the best OWU experience possible, even if it is in a different format,” she says.

“The best part is being able to do the work at any time,” says Karis Lowrie ’18, who is taking Hankison’s class. Lowrie, a zoology and classics major and psychology minor, advises setting up specific times throughout the week for schoolwork in order to stay on track.

“Taking an online course has been awesome. You get to do the work on your own time and it helps to have the lectures all online,” says Matt Maier ’17, a journalism major taking Eastman’s “Religions of the West” online class.

“If you need to take a summer course, I would definitely do it online,” he says of OWU’s offerings. “Everything you need is right in front of you, so it is easy to do well.”