Focusing on eLearning
The College of William and Mary recently launched a new initiative to incorporate and enhance technology in education, dubbing the initiative “eLearning.”
Gene Roche, a professor of educational technology at the College’s School of Education, was appointed to lead the new eLearning initiative. Previously, Roche served as the College’s director of Academic Information Services for more than a decade.
A trend seen both in the United States and around the world, eLearning is part of an initiative to merge technology with learning in higher education. Roche said that one in three enrollments in the United States are in online courses, which is twice the enrollment of one decade ago.
“Nearly 7 million students are taking at least one online course, and academic leaders — deans and provosts — are increasingly confident that outcomes from online learning are similar to those that can be achieved through purely face-to-face means,” Roche said in email.
Roche added that learning via face-to-face interactions might also be enhanced through technology.
Earlier this year, the Digital Educational Technology Committee reported to Provost Michael Halleran that eLearning, and particularly web-based learning, is already common at the College. As technology in the realm of education improves, however, eLearning initiatives will become increasingly present in classrooms around campus.
As part of this new initiative, the Mason School of Business is working to create a new MBA that incorporates eLearning. The program will offer the same rigor and quality as the traditional MBA degree program, while reaching out to professionals who are unable to leave their jobs to pursue a traditional MBA. As an example, this new degree program would appeal to professionals who travel frequently, who work irregular hours, or who are unable to enroll in the business school’s part-time Flex MBA program.
The College’s Arts and Sciences faculty members are also getting involved in the eLearning initiative. A group of 20 professors, led by Dean of Undergraduate Studies John Griffin, are exploring ways in which eLearning could support the College’s liberal arts curriculum and engage students more effectively.
“The various eLearning initiatives will leverage digital technology to improve the strengths of a William and Mary education, which relies on deep engagement between faculty and students,” Halleran said in an email.
Even though the eLearning initiative is still in its infancy, Roche said the program is a “moving target” that will reach into many departments and segments of the College and could have lasting effects.
“Well designed eLearning activities allow students to move at their own pace — slowing down on difficult parts and moving more quickly on content that is more familiar to them,” Roche said.