Mark Porcaro, executive director of online learning, addressed faculty senate concerns of course “cannibalization” Monday with news of the university’s plan to expand online learning.
Concerns were raised after it was announced last month that 1000 students currently enroll in courses online only.
He announced the addition of six new online degrees that will be available beginning in the fall 2017 semester— a bachelor of general studies in anthropology, English and political science, a bachelor of science in engineering technology, and a master of public administration and special education.
Porcaro said that WSU gained 107 new online-only students for the spring 2017 semester. The goal is to have 335 new online-only students for fall 2017 and see a 110% increase in online-only students by 2020, he said.
Some faculty members expressed concerns over the university’s eagerness to expand its online-only presence.
Jay Price, a senator in the history department, questioned if there was a way to assess where the line is between increasing enrollment with online courses and “diluting an existing pool” of students by forcing students by circumstance to take online courses.
“We have a lot of students who are leaving the face-to-face classroom for the online classroom environment,” Porcaro said.
He said “it’s hard to determine” why that is and whether students would have taken certain online-only classes face-to-face if the option were available.
“I know a lot of students want online courses— they fill quickly,” Porcaro said.
“But when you force them into an online course, they complain. They don’t want to be forced into that option.”
Porcaro said that students who fall into the latter category are not targeted by the online learning program.
The program’s target demographic is working adults over the age of 25 and those with dependents.