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Nicholls reports distance learning boom

THIBODAUX – Enrollment in distance learning courses at Nicholls State University increased by nearly 1,600 students between 2010 and 2011 – and the number of unique online courses increased by more than 80.

Distance learning allows students and teachers to take advantage of Internet technology to remove the burdens of time and location that might otherwise hinder some students’ progress toward graduation.

Dr. Andrew Simoncelli, coordinator of distance learning at Nicholls, said the boost in distance-learning offerings at Nicholls is the result of increased student demand and increased comfort among faculty with the required technology.

“In 2010, the university increased its support of faculty training for online teaching,” Simoncelli said. “In addition to internal training with the Center for Advancing Faculty Engagement (CAFÉ), the university provided funding for faculty members to take a two-week, online training course via the Quality Matters Program. So far, 139 faculty members have completed the training, with more scheduled to take the course this semester.”

Simoncelli said the validity of such courses was questioned in the early years of online learning because it took place outside the classroom, but the passage of time has eased distance learning into the academic mainstream, especially at Nicholls. In fall 2011, the Faculty Senate approved the Distance Education Policies and Procedures manual, available at nicholls.edu/distance.

“This document was the first of its kind on campus to provide some guidelines in offering distance learning courses,” Simoncelli said.

Current online courses at Nicholls are listed at nicholls.edu/distance/spring-2012-online-courses. Every academic college is represented.

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