Administrator works on online class plan

by Angelica LaVine / Beacon Correspondent • November 14, 2013

Soon, students may be able to take classes online.
Soon, students may be able to take classes online.

Emerson plans to expand its online course offerings, according to Michaele Whelan, vice president for academic affairs. 

 Administrators began this initiative to attract stronger, more diverse applicants to the graduate school, said Whelan. The online courses would be helpful for students seeking an Emerson degree who don’t want to move to Boston, she said. 

Initially, the courses will focus on graduate students, but the school is working to launch an undergraduate trial period this summer, said Whelan. Courses offered during this time will be those that lend themselves well to online format, like science, or those popular at the college. 

Alyssa Ray, a senior marketing communication major, said she was excited by this prospect. She said she thinks it gives students who go home for the break a chance to continue taking classes. 

“It would be a wonderful opportunity for driven students who want to try to graduate early,” said Ray.

Whelan said the online courses themselves would function through Canvas and Adobe Connect — an online conferencing platform used for webinars and interactive virtual classes. 

According to the college’s course catalog, Emerson currently offers one certificate program, titled graphic novel writing and illustration, exclusively in online format. For the current semester, the school has four online classes, which are all part of other certificate programs, according to the catalog.  These certificate programs or “continuous education units” are credits obtained by professionals with licenses to practice various professions, rather than regular credits. For the spring semester, the college will offer two online classes in the same program.  

Whelan said so far, the majority of the planning has been with the communication science and disorders graduate program. The plan is to offer prerequisite courses to the master’s program online, and to possibly convert the second year of that program into an online-only format to give students the choice of doing their clinical work at Emerson’s Los Angeles campus instead of in Boston, said Whelan. 

The communication sciences and disorders graduate program is two years long and requires a number of clinical practice hours, she said. The LA program is currently available to graduate students, and with this online configuration of courses, it would be easier for these students to participate.

Christine Moniz, a first year graduate student studying communication sciences and disorders, said she could see the value of online courses in her master’s program. 

“If the introductory classes were offered online,” said Moniz, “it would really allow more time for the important stuff like hands-on experience and practice in the clinic during class time.”

Whelan said she has spoken informally to department heads about the idea, but hasn’t established specifics.

Currently, Whelan said she is the only administrator planning out the initiative. She said she plans to hire a dean of graduate and professional students to take over the project. Whelan said it is too early for her to estimate what the initiative will cost.