University has more English courses than it can show

By: Sophie Herbut

A new English major may be excited to dive into the numerous literature courses listed in the FIU course catalogs, but may soon realize they’re slim pickings that only get slimmer.

By 2020, the University hopes to push online classes to make the courses 30 percent traditional, 30 percent hybrid and 40 percent online.

While some departments may benefit more by converting into the online-dominant model, students in the English department believe it thrives on the style of each professor, which might not translate well digitally.

“I don’t think that there should be any English classes online,” said Alexander Orta, an English-major and senior. “Physical class discussions fuel English classes.”

Orta puts an emphasis on creative writing and workshop-type classes that he thinks would not translate well online. The majority of what he’s learned in literature classes he’s learned in face-to-face classes. He’s experienced a hybrid class where he said it was “unorganized and forced.”

Orta is taking two independent study classes in the fall because the lack of flexibility offered in the other classes. He says, “The main problem with creative writing is that it’s all centered in the Biscayne Bay Campus.”

Dr. Jamie Sutton, professor and chair of the English department, hopes to accommodate the goals to a friendlier version to the English classes. With the approval of the dean, he hopes to convert the umbrella model into 60 percent traditional courses, 20 percent hybrid and 20 percent online.

Sutton tried his hand at online courses for the first time, with the assistance of Dr. Kenneth Johnson, last Spring. He taught a Shakespeare history course, a class he’s taught several times in person.

“If you would have asked me five years ago if I wanted to teach online, I would have said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Sutton said, but after his eye-opening semester, he’s more open minded about the potential of online courses.

Sutton understands they cannot ignore the University’s wish to grow online, and he will work with them to develop FIU while not risking the quality of education.

“Let us offer more courses where people are excited and not forced.” If they’re forced, he does not expect the results to be good. Sutton thrives on human contact, especially since he teaches theatrical literature. However, with his first experience online, he’s seen the appeal of a student-run discussion board and how it compliments the thought-centered analyses the major invokes.

“I’m not willing to choose,” Sutton said. He feels a hybrid model might be beneficial overall and a more acceptable design for those who are skeptical towards a fully online class.

There were a total of 17 face-to-face and 28 online courses offered, with only 4 online courses that were cancelled.

Traditional classes have a maximum of 50 students, but that number is susceptible to change since it depends on the classroom size. Online courses are able to hold the cap steady. Online classes also do not have a time limit and is open to touch on points that could otherwise be overlooked.

In the upcoming fall, there will be roughly 32 upper-level English courses offered traditionally and seven online courses. While the online number seems small in comparison, the traditional classes are dispersed between campuses and may not coincide with each other to fit into a manageable schedule.

With about 30 professors, each offering about 2 sessions, and 800 majors, there’s little room for  leverage and experimenting. Online courses can provide sanctuary for any problem, yet there is little demand for it.

“Online classes are beneficial because they allow me to take classes that I would not be able to take in person because of time and scheduling conflicts,” says Jani Medina, a junior who’s majoring in English and hoping to pursue a career in speech pathology.

“FIU going digital is a step in the right direction, we’re moving with the times and providing ease and accessibility,” Medina said.

In the past year, the English department has suffered two deaths and three retirements of upper-level professors. One new full-time professor was hired, but not in the same specialty as the ones who left.



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