Ohio State ranks in top 10 for distance learning education


Ohio State is striving to bring the academic experience of sitting in a lecture hall to the digital classrooms of its online courses, and its placement among some of the top 10 online programs shows evidence of progress.

U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2015 “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” report, ranking OSU tied for eighth.

OSU currently offers 10 online programs, with more than 270 online courses, and had 2014 enrollment of more than 5,000 students, Office of the Chief Information Officer spokeswoman Katharine Keune said in an email.

Rob Griffiths, senior director of digital scholarship for ODEE, said OSU’s online program is successful because it offers online students similar content to what is taught in on-campus courses, but presents it using a different teaching method that is better-suited for digital learning.

“We are highly ranked already with our on-campus delivery, and this is now showing that we’re doing the right things and the same things with our online education,” he said.

Griffiths said the same faculty teach online courses and on-campus courses, with course content adapted and customized for an online medium.

“We’re not watering down the experience; we’re just providing additional opportunities for people who may not otherwise be able to attend this great institution,” he said. “We still have the same academic rigor.”

John Muir, senior instructional designer in the ODEE, said in order to keep the academic integrity of the course material, faculty assist in identifying pivotal elements of a class session and then piece the elements back together to create an online course.

Muir said this goes beyond simply uploading a lecture online. Accompanying videos, class discussions, quizzes, polls and other elements are woven into the course to allow for better student interaction.

In comparison to a classroom lecture, Muir said, “The experience of it is going to be very different.”

Avraham Benatar, associate professor of materials science and engineering, said he feels there has been an amazing evolution in online learning in the past five years that has enhanced students’ educational experiences.

Benatar is currently teaching two courses with online sections: welding of plastics and composites, as well as fitness-for-service of welded structures.

The College of Engineering ranked 19th in the U.S. News & World Report‘s ranking of the best online graduate engineering degree programs this year.

Benatar said he annotates his lectures live, writing on lecture slides using a tablet, and then combines this with audio and video of his lectures, which are uploaded to Carmen for online students.

Benatar also uses the Carmen discussion board to allow on-campus and online students the opportunity to interact and share resources.

“I do see a lot of benefits to faculty and students,” he said of online education. “It gives us an opportunity to improve our quality of teaching and be able to provide access to materials outside the classroom.”

Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing and chief wellness officer at OSU, said U.S. News & World Report’s ranking is the “gold standard” for the College of Nursing.

The College of Nursing ranked sixth in the U.S. News & World Report‘s ranking of the best online graduate nursing degree programs this year.

“This was a very impactful ranking for our college,” Melnyk said.

Melnyk added that the OSU College of Nursing is set apart from other online nursing programs because it allows students to participate through a combination of independent work and live interaction with professors and peers during lectures.

“When you deliver online, your online programs have to meet the same high quality standard as on-site programs,” she said.

Melnyk attributed the college’s success to its use of innovative online teaching methods, as well as the success of the program’s graduates and increased nationwide visibility of the university.

“I think it’s been really helpful that we have really gained a lot of attention on multiple fronts, across the country, with what we are doing here at Ohio State,” she said.

Looking forward, Melnyk said the College of Nursing plans to expand its online catalog, specifically within the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner programs, in order to give students more online-learning options. She also said the college wants to attract more students, in and out of state, through increased distance learning options.

Griffiths said the ODEE has hopes for growth, and he is optimistic about the future of distance education.

“Not every institution takes the same approach as Ohio State, and we’re really committed to the student experience,” Griffiths said. “The student learning experience is really important to us.”

By Michael Huson