Online Presence Continues to Increase, Even at Smaller Schools

While it’s safe to say that online learning is here to stay in higher education, it’s continuing to gain strength, not only at larger institutions, but also in small, private institutions. According to an article on by Steve Kolowich, Lasell College — a small, private college located in Newton, Mass. — recently put in a mandate in place that requires all professors to use the school’s Moodle-based learning management system (LMS) by year-end. Professors are required to use the LMS to take attendance, post assignments, and post grades, at a bare minimum.

According to the Campus Computing Project, more than 90% of all colleges and universities, whether large, small, public, or private have invested in an LMS system. Traditional universities have even jumped to get on board by deploying online platforms to run with their face-to-face courses.

The article goes on to point out that in most smaller institutions, the systems are not fully embraced by professors. Most LMS programs require schools to pay licensing fees, or at least implementation and upkeep. While professors may have the ability to track attendance, post learning materials, start threaded discussions, collect submitted work, and post grades, they are rarely utilized to their full potential at institutions where traditional education still holds the spotlight.

In fact, most schools find themselves struggling to get faculty members to use the LMS to its full potential, so it’s typically only used to supplement classroom learning. Colleges that offer a significant amount of its programs online, or where the LMS is used as the primary point of contact between instructors and students, is where the use of LMS programs have been most successful.

Lasell College is well aware of this issue, and has added a second phase to its initiative to ensure that all professors using the LMS will do so to its full potential. By 2017, the school hopes to have an online undergraduate degree completion program. The plan calls for the college to enroll at least 100 undergraduates specifically for online learning within the next five years. The school’s current enrollment is just shy of the 1,800 mark. This means the school not only hopes to increase the existing online teaching ability of its faculty, but also prepare them to teach online, according to the school’s president, Michael B. Alexander.

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