female student viewing laptop computer
Changing times, but still leading the way
By Chancellor Linda P. Brady

When I was in college, classes were held in classrooms. Professors lectured. Homework and papers were done outside of class. I suspect the same was true for many of you.

Clearly, things have changed. In the space of the last 10 years, technology has transformed so much of our everyday lives that many wouldn't dream of leaving the house without a smart phone. Our classrooms are no different.

Today, the traditional model of face-to-face classes, while alive and well, is partnered with online learning. And even those face-to-face classes have technological components not even imagined 10 years ago. For example, the global classroom in Spencer with its videoconferencing capability allows students to learn with faculty experts and other students anywhere in the world. What a marvelous benefit to our students.

For years, UNCG has been a leader in online learning. In 2007 the state turned to us to provide online courses to high school students. We served thousands of students in all 100 counties of our state, giving them the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. Our UNCG in 3 students often use online learning to help them get a head start on their college careers.

We have embraced online learning for a variety of reasons. First, we are committed to access for all students. As long as a UNCG student can connect to the internet, they can take a course from anywhere in the world. For our non-traditional students who work full time and often juggle family responsibilities, the self-pacing of these courses allows them to pursue the degree they need for their future on their timetable.

We are also committed to student success. Not only are online classes beneficial to students, these classes allow professors to do things that can't be done in a traditional class. Dr. Malcolm Schug, who co-teaches the online course “Major Concepts in Biology” with Dr. Elizabeth Tomlin, has found they can cover 25 percent more content than the same class delivered in a face-to-face format. And the average class grades are five points higher. In an evaluation of the course one student wrote: “It is hard to meet strict deadlines when you work a full time job and the way that this course was set up allowed me to really work hard when I had the time to do it and not stress when I had to work 16 hour days on my job. Thank you.”

As a leader in online learning, we are continuing to explore ways to use technology to make a UNCG education even more accessible.

In the next year, we will pilot two exciting programs. First, we are developing MOOCs, or massive open online courses. As the name implies, these classes can be taken by anyone, anywhere. For the 67,000 Guilford County residents who have not completed a college degree and are several years removed from their college experience, it will be a wonderful opportunity to try a non-credit course. In the spring, Dr. Stephen Ruzicka will be teaching a MOOC, called “Passion of the Western Mind,“ and Dr. Anthony Chow will teach “Library and Science Information Usability and User Centered Design.“ For our alumni, MOOCs are a way to continue learning — even when life has taken them far from campus.

Our second pilot program is a flipped course. In those classes, lectures are placed online for students to review. Professors then use class time to apply the concepts. They might use the time for group work or other ways to process the information. This year several UNCG faculty will be pilot testing flipped courses using existing online courses for content presentation and team-based learning activities in the face-to-face classroom. Many employers say they need creative thinkers who can work in groups and solve problems. This type of course allows professors to do more of what they enjoy — interacting with students — while also preparing students for the work force.

We are working hard to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. Our students leave UNCG ready to make an impact in their workplaces and communities and even on a grander scale. Embracing changing technology is just one way to achieve that goal.