You can use a computer to send mail, do your banking, order merchandise, and in Iowa soon you’ll even be able to get an entire college degree on-line, without setting foot on campus. Paul Bowers is director of on-line programs at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, and says off-campus learning is nothing new for B-V-U. The school has centers across the state and also offers some on-line courses, to add flexibility for students and also to learn what it’d take to support student learners on-line. Bowers says B-V-U is now ready to take the next step. BVU plans to offer an undergraduate degree in business, and a master’s in education fully on-line beginning next year. Bowers says Buena Vista’s been a leader among Iowa schools in offering courses over the net. He says Drake University was also among the first to offer on-line programs but BVU has offered degrees for a long to non-traditional students. Buena Vista’s a leader in connecting students on campus, too, Bower says, including making sure everyone has a computer. Every fulltime student and professor has a laptop computer, provided as part of the tuition when you enroll. And the entire campus is connected by a wireless computer network, so he says you can go to the football stadium or outside and you’re still connected to the net. That “wired” connectivity is part of the what the school calls its “e-BVU” program. Bower says BVU was the first completely wireless campus in the world, and now plans to become a leader in on-line learning. He says it’s not a drawback to take a degree without spending time in classrooms alongside other students and professors. In an on-line course there’s an enormous amount of communication between students and faculty, and though it’s written and not verbal, he says you’d be surprised how well an instructor gets to know a student’s “voice.” He says the work in on-line classes tends to be project-oriented, writing papers rather than taking tests or holding subjective discussions…and he says it minimizes the opportunity for cheating, as a professor familiar with a student’s work and writing style would notice if that voice changes, even more than a traditional class.
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