Online Courses Offered To Those Not Online

By Staff
August 24, 2009

A college will begin to offer distance learning courses this fall that students may take even if they don't have an Internet connection.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that students at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, New Jersey, will have the option of using a 2GB flash drive to prepare for and complete their classes. The flash drives are provided for the 15 new FlashTrack courses available as part of the the college's Mobile Learning Initiative.

"Our new mobile learning platform will give students more flexibility to do their course work while commuting, on military deployment, sitting on the beach or in any instance where Web connectivity is not convenient or immediately available," explained Dr. Henry van Zyl, vice provost of the Center for Directed Independent Adult Learning at the institution, who was quoted in a press release. "It recreates the online experience in an offline setting."

Thomas Edison State College, which was recently named one of the nation's top "Military Friendly" institutions by G.I. Jobs magazine, created the program to assist its many students who often cannot access the Internet.

"When you have students who are constantly on the go, online courses can be a challenge," said Matt C. Cooper, an instructional technology specialist at the college and one of the course designers, who was quoted in the Chronicle. "We tried experimenting with a CD-ROM, but it didn't work. They break, they get lost--it's static media. That offers a lot of problems."

Some courses offered in the college's FlashTrack program include the Science of Nutrition, Social Gerontology and Principles of Finance. The flash drives come preloaded with most items to complete the courses, including materials and software for spreadsheets, media players, and PDF and photo viewing programs. Students are able to use the flash drives at any computer, completing and saving their course work each time without leaving a digital footprint.

"The flash drive acts in much the same way a computer hard drive does," noted van Zyl, "but it is portable, secure, reusable and completely self-contained."

According Cooper, the school hopes to install technology which will allow the flash drive to automatically connect to a folder hosted by the college, allowing students to submit assignments whenever the flash drive accesses an Internet connection. Additional phases of the Mobile Learning Initiative will include courses that can be accessed through smartphones such as the Blackberry and iPhone.

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