Dalhousie University boosting awareness about online courses

Dal holding lunch and learns until May about distance learning

Joshua Harding, a Dal student studying with a laptop. Photo: Takaichi Kogata

At Dalhousie, you don’t have to commute to the campus for some courses.

Many universities have online courses nowadays, but Dal is especially active in distance learning.

The online courses that Dal supports have the same cost as any face-to-face courses although the per course fee is different depending on the faculty.

The university held a lunch and learn on Jan. 16, as part of an awareness campaign to get more people signed up for online courses. At this event, staff at the Centre for Learning and Teaching told students and teachers about online learning.

Adrienne Sehatzadeh works as an instructional designer at Dal’s Centre for Learning and Teaching.

“The Lunch & Learn series is a way to reach faculty who are working in the online environment  and to give them an opportunity to talk about how they are using the online environment in their teaching,” Sehatzadeh says.

“We get a mixture of faculty, graduate students and occasionally, undergraduate students at these sessions. It’s a good time for information sharing and networking.”

She says that online courses can help students who need courses but can’t go to class, especially when they’re home from school in summertime.

Dalhousie has been involved in distributed education for many years, in fact going back to the early 1980s. Dal’s School of Social Work has been offering an online component since 2001.

“There is a niche for online courses,” she says.

Distance learning sounds like you have less interaction, but Sehatzadeh emphasizes it is not true.

“People think that you can’t develop a community online, but that is just so far from what actually happens. There is so much research. There is a way that you have to do it, but you can do it very effectively.”

According to the learning centre’s survey, 69.2 per cent of students are satisfied with the online learning offered.

Ameya Charnalia, a one-year bachelor of journalism student at King’s who got his first degree at the University of Toronto, prefers face-to-face courses even if they are huge ones.

“The first-year economic class I took had hundreds of students in a massive auditorium. It wasn’t interactive. I felt anonymous. But even though big classes are intimidating, it’s better than online in my opinion. It’s more personal even if it is less interactive.”

“I don’t think online courses are a substitute, although it might be more advantageous for other students who can’t make it to class.”

The lunch and learn will be held every month until May.