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More online courses, degrees in store for upcoming semesters

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As Denton Independent School District moves to incorporate more permanent virtual learning options, the university is also adopting some changes made in the wake of COVID-19 for upcoming semesters.

Students can expect to see more online learning options available in the coming semesters, but not in “a mass transition,” Brenda Kihl, vice provost for curriculum innovation and academic partnerships, said.

“When a course is put online, it’s usually done in collaboration with someone who understands online learning optimization and accessibility requirements,” Kihl said. “It takes time [to develop the course] because it’s created and delivered in a way that’s best for online learning. Any class that will be online going forward needs to go through that process.”

Thousands of course sections were abruptly transitioned to an online format in spring 2020. A temporary designation of ‘remote’ was developed to indicate the courses were not traditionally offered online but adapted to the format in the face of the pandemic. In the fall, the remote designation will not be used and all classes will be classified as either face-to-face, hybrid or ‘INET,’ Ruthanne Thompson, assistant vice president of digital strategy and innovation, said.

The university plans on returning to a traditional schedule with mainly face-to-face classes. However, course catalogs will have a higher percentage of online classes offered due to interest expressed by students, Kihl said. Face-to-face and hybrid classes may see more virtual technology used for instruction as well.

“Even if a course isn’t completely online, this past year with faculty having to rely on virtual learning, we all have learned a lot,” Kihl said. “I think that as faculty have had the opportunity to teach in the virtual environment, even in-person classes will be supplemented with learning technologies.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, course modality gave preference to offering freshmen and seniors face-to-face experiences. Now, the format of a course will be chosen not based on size or student classification. The modality of classes are going to be decided on a “good fit” basis, Thompson said.

While entirely virtual certification and degree plans are already offered by the university, the majority are at a graduate level. Many departments have expressed an interest in adapting more of both their undergraduate and graduate programs online. This process will take time though, Kihl said, and the colleges have to “prioritize what they want to do first” and “almost have to focus on them one at a time.”

“I do believe that there are a number of faculty who discovered, during the remote phase, that an online format would be a good fit for their courses and as such,  and I do believe we will all see an uptick in online courses being developed and delivered,” Thompson said. “Along with seeing a growth in online courses here at UNT, I think you will also see a growth in online programs, both at the graduate and undergraduate level.”

Over the past year, some students have learned they prefer a virtual learning environment while others realized that in-person formats better suit their education.

“It’s actually such a huge stress reliever to be honest,” media arts junior Priya Chaudhari said. “Now I know I don’t have to choose between my wellbeing and education because I can attend class remotely if I’m sick, rather than suffer and be a danger to myself and others.”

Featured Image: A laptop sits on the lap of the Scrappy statue in front of the Union on March 3, 2021. Image by John Anderson

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Article Originally Published by Ileana Garnand on North Texas Daily

Source: North Texas Daily

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