Why would an on-campus student take online classes?

Students like the flexibility of virtual courses

Dale Whittaker, a provost and executive vice president at the University of Central Florida (UCF), recently spoke to EdSurge about how residential students are taking advantage of the school's online courses.

Many of UCF's 64,000 students are not just on campus to read textbooks and do problem sets; they are also deeply involved in student life. About half of the students also work at least 20 hours a week.

This has created a demand for online courses at the university, even for students who live on or around the physical campus. UCF has created a number of online learning options in response to this demand.

For example, UCF allows students to register to attend some large lecture courses either online or face-to-face. According to Whittaker, the same instructor typically teaches both, and students can even move from one to the other midway through the semester.

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Whittaker shared that UCF has also been testing a series of 10 adaptive-learning courses. These courses tailor themselves to students' individual starting points. For example, a student might begin a course with a mastery of many concepts already. In that case, the adaptive-learning course would not make the student go through remedial material. But it does include such material for a student who needs it. 

Students enjoy these online courses because they offer a degree of flexibility they don't have when taking a full face-to-face course load. For an example, Whittaker points to UCF's student body presidents, all of whom exclusively take online courses. This grants them more flexibility to participate in the board of trustees, engage with other student organizations, and run the student government.

 Whittaker also argues that online courses help the institution serve more students. If all UCF's students were face-to-face, Wittaker says the school would face big challenges with physical space and ensuring students always get into the courses they need to keep up with degree progress.

"What we know is that they're actually doing better in the online courses than they are in the face-to-face," Whittaker says. He adds that UCF prioritizes faculty development for online courses specifically to ensure they maintain a high standard of instruction (Young, EdSurge News, 3/21).

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