October 9, 2012
Ginna Morris is raising three children in rural southern Indiana, maintains a full-time job outside the home and serves in the Navy reserves.
Cindi Marietta is building manager at the Landsbaum Center for Health Education, located just blocks from the Indiana State University campus.
Both completed bachelor's degrees online through Indiana State, which offers four-year degrees via distance education in 10 subject areas. That's more than any other public university in the state, according to university websites.
Morris attended classes online via her home computer and took a full semester of classes via a laptop while stationed at a military base in the east African nation of Djibouti. When not on active duty, Morris commuted 40 minutes each way to a job in Jeffersonville while an Indiana State student.
"I didn't have time to drive to a school and take classes," she said.
For Marietta, all classes leading to her degree were online except for one elective and she was named outstanding senior in human resource development for 2010.
"I could get on the computer any time I had free time to take the class. I could work at my pace and on my available schedule. Plus we live in the country so we don't have the fastest internet. Often after closing time I would shut the door and do my work right here (in the office)," she said.
Surprisingly, Marietta said, she was even able to take a physical education class online."I kept a health and wellness log and ... and I learned about how to measure BMI (body mass index)," she said.
Thanks to a program that records class presentations so students can "attend" class at times that work best for them.
Both women completed degree in human resources development. Thanks to a video connection, they were able to take many classes "alongside" other students who were inside an ISU classroom.
"You could actually interact back and forth, which is cool," said Morris, who completed her degree in May. Yet, through distance learning, she could also tend to her coursework during lunch breaks or while waiting for a child's band practice to let out.
"I wasn't subject to certain times where I had to be some place to sit in the classroom. I'm 43 years old. I'm pretty sure I can finish a homework assignment without somebody holding my hand."
Her classes served as a sort of therapy when she was stationed in the Horn of Africa, more than 7,000 miles from home.
"It was a challenge, particularly anything involving a group, but it was probably the better part of my deployment. I could think about my classes and not think about other stuff," said Morris, a 21-year Navy veteran who served as a personnel specialist for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Marietta said faculty at Indiana State were accommodating when it came to setting up her classes.
"I met with a couple of instructors in person and they were willing to meet to suit my schedule," she said.
Cindy Crowder, associate professor of human resource development who taught many of Morris and Marietta's classes, moves around in the classroom when she lectures. Thanks to a remote tracking device that hangs from a lanyard she wears around her neck, a camera mounted high in the back wall of a classroom in Indiana State's Dreiser Hall follows her every move.
That camera is one of the upgrades Indiana State has made to a pilot classroom to help make its distance education program more efficient.
"It's great," Crowder said. "Other classrooms require a student technician to manage the equipment and switching. This is designed to let the instructor manage the technology."
The pilot classroom also features two cameras the instructor can control to make sure that online students can not only see her but also see other students participating in class discussion at all times. There is also a monitor that shows the instructor the view the distance student is seeing.
The classroom complements four others that are distance education capable, but lack the new tracking camera said Ken Brauchle, dean of extended learning. One other classroom is to get the new camera system in time for spring semester, he said.
"Our distance education programs have grown to the point where we are really having a hard time scheduling all of the classes," Brauchle said. "This gives us additional capacity. This is a prototype. We intend to really wring it out this semester with faculty members from different disciplines using it. We'll make any changes that we need to in the software, the design or the equipment and replicate that in other classrooms."
More than 6,000 students, or nearly half of the university's total student body, are expected to take at least one distance education class this year, he said.
Distance education isn't just for non-traditional students such as Morris and Marietta, Brauchle noted. Many students take advantage of technology to take needed classes online during the summer, allowing them to return home and work to help pay their way through college, he said.
Brauchle said Indiana State is a leader in distance education because faculty were innovators in the field.
"We've been at it longer than most of our sister institutions and we've got some new programs in the hopper so we will be growing that line-up of distance education programs," he said.
For many students, having the capability of taking classes online makes all the difference in the world.
"I would not have been able to complete a degree without distance education," Morris said."This was the only way I would have been able to get a degree and work the type of job that I have," said Marietta.
More information about distance education at Indiana State, including a list of available programs, is at http://indstate.edu/distance/
Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/ISUphotoservices/Distance-Ed-Classroom-in/i-Dn5jdbD/0/L/082312welcomecenter-6065-L.jpg - Cindy Crowder, associate professor of human resource development, teaches a class at Indiana State University's Dreiser Hall for students both in the classroom and who take the class online via distance education. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)
Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/ISUphotoservices/Distance-Ed-Classroom-in/i-MzJvZJh/0/L/082312welcomecenter-6060-L.jpg - A camera mounted on the back wall of a classroom in Indiana State University's Dreiser Hall tracks Cindy Crowder's every move so the associate professor of human resource development is constantly in view of students taking her class online. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)
Contact: Ken Brauchle, dean of extended learning, Indiana State University, 812-237-4394 or email@example.com
Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ISU has installed new cameras and switching equipment in a distance education classroom as part of an effort to make online education more efficient.