Oct 2, 2007

Internet-based curriculum expands, enrollment increases

by Alyson Bruner, News Reporter

    The sun darted through Kalib Wilkinson’s bedroom window, beckoning him to wake up. After all, he had to go to school. Wilkinson, a seminary student at Liberty University, does not rise grudgingly for class anymore. Now, he rises with a smile because, with a combination of residential, distance learning and residential Web classes, Wilkinson takes school whenever he wants.
    “I love these DLP (distance learning program) classes! They are a God-send,” Wilkinson said. “Plus, with the new Web classes this year I can finish some classes in only eight weeks.”
    Other students seem to be enjoying Liberty’s Internet-based college curriculum as well. Terry Conner, Director of Academic Operations at Liberty, said that, according to statistics, “Liberty University had over 18,000 DLP students in the 2006-2007 academic year and expects to have between 20,000 to 25,000 in the 2007-2008 academic year.”
    DLP has been in existence for 20 years and has been growing consistently. Cameo Ray, Supervisor of Media Design said, “Online advertisements were the major marketing trend to attract DLP students.”
    Senior Felipe Marcilio said, “I enjoyed taking a DLP class over the summer because it gave me a chance to focus on just two courses over a period of eight weeks versus the normal 16-week classes.”
    With DLP classes a student can earn a full, four-year degree from Liberty University without ever stepping foot on campus.
    Danielle Roseau, a new enrollment specialist, has a real appreciation for DLP since it gives “students who are in the military in Iraq right now the opportunity to take classes through DLP at Liberty.”
    Not only does DLP benefit the military men and women, but it also gives students an opportunity to be able to work while at the same time having school in the convenience of a Web-based format. Roseau has plans for finishing up her own education by enrolling in the summer DLP. 
    While DLP has given students from afar the chance to partake in Liberty’s atmosphere, school officials have expanded their view this fall to include residential Web classes. These classes, like DLP, can be taken online, but they are reserved for residential students. This semester, residential Web classes run only eight weeks and work more as an intensive than a semester-long course.
    Senior David Hunt simply said, “Residential Web courses save me time.”
    The Residential Web classes have received positive feedback and are drawing quite a crowd from the student body.
    Conner says, “As far as resident students taking Web courses, we had around 1,300 registrations for the fall term.”
    However, the residential Web classes will be making an adjustment come next semester. The classes will be moved from the eight-week intensives they are now to full 16-week classes where students will be required to meet once every week with a professor on campus. Frank DiGregorio sees this first semester of residential Web classes as a testing ground.
    He said, “Since this program is so brand new, we’re kind of testing the waters to see where it stands. It seems to be working well.”
    The biggest gap in the DLP and residential Web classes seems to be the professor-to-student interaction that is a struggle to replicate outside of the classroom.
    Senior Claire Melsi, who is in a Web course this semester, said, “I think it depends on the individual professor and his or her personal teaching style. Overall, I have been impressed by the instructor-student interaction throughout the course of my Web class.”
    DiGregorio, who sees the interaction as improving, said, “Although the student’s interaction between professors may be increasing, it still is the student’s responsibility to do all of his or her work on time, without the professor’s reminder.”
    DiGregorio likens Liberty’s Web programs with driving a car. “Driving a car is more of a privilege than a right, just like the opportunity to take classes online is a privilege, not a right.”
    In his bedroom, Wilkinson shuts his computer down, the flashing “turn-off” key symbolizing the end of another tough day of classes. “For a busy student, these classes can sure come in handy,” he said.
    Wilkinson will be finished with his graduate studies program through DLP in two years. Without the program, he is not sure he would be able to finish.
    “The distance learning program has meant a lot to me in terms of graduating,” Wilkinson said. “It allows me to take a lot of credits and manage my own time.”

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