Expansion proposed for virtual education in Florida

Jennifer Sans/Contributing Writer

Students and professors are showing apprehension toward rapidly expanding virtual education.

The House of Representatives is pushing a proposal for one state university to be Florida’s “preeminent research institution” that will establish a “fully online arm,” according to The Miami Herald.

The University has an online education branch that allows students to take courses and receive full degrees in select areas of study. Students and professors question, however, the expansion of academic programs such as FIU Online.

“Students need to be really self motivated in order to succeed in online courses,” said Patricia Bishop, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

This can be an issue for students who are procrastinators, but decide to enroll in online courses.

“As long as I kept up with all of the work I was assigned, it was fine, but I think online courses definitely aren’t for lazy students,” said Jonathan Harris, sophomore hospitality management major.

There can also be problems involving communication in online courses.

“I constantly had problems understanding the material and the professor was impossible to get in touch with. It caused me to fall behind in the work,” said Celia Sidani, sophomore English major.

Although there are students who tend to procrastinate, based on student surveys conducted in 2012 by the Florida Virtual School, only 13 percent of students who took the survey claimed they were not “highly motivated and self-disciplined.”

FLVS is the largest online learning school in Florida.

There may be students who are not highly motivated, but according to Interim Chair of Online Review, Brian Peterson, the online branch at FIU is still growing to offer more courses and degree programs online.

“There is a proposal for something called FIU Global. It would be a program in Latin America exclusively online. It may not happen, but it is something being discussed for the future at FIU,” said Peterson.

Since the University is international, online learning is becoming one of the ways the University can expand internationally.

Implementing online education in order to expand the University would mean saving lots of money on the cost of building schools in different countries.

Peterson said the online programs can also benefit older students who are working and have families because it is much easier to work online instead of going to a class.

Peterson said that online courses and hybrid courses have been helping clear out the crowded parking garages at FIU because students are not driving to the campus as often.

Even though there are benefits for some students to take online courses, there is a fear among teachers that online education could replace the traditional classroom setting and cause massive unemployment.

“I have this fear myself. There’s something called Massive Open Online Courses, where 160,000 students can be taught by just one professor. The grading is mostly automatic machinery. It could wipe out many, many jobs for professors and that worries me. I’m concerned for the future of FIU because of that,” said Peterson.

Teachers’ unions that oppose the possibility of expanding online education have this fear, but online education is becoming more common around the world.

“Many universities are taking this path in education. We have to compete as a university,” said Peterson.