2012 Evening/Weekend/Online orientation.
New "hybrid" courses enliven St. Kate's Evening/Weekend/Online program.
By Andy Steiner
It was only a matter of time. For several years now, students enrolled in what used to be known as Weekend College have been asking administrators to offer more opportunities for online learning.
Although the program's students — busy women returning to college to complete their bachelor's degrees — appreciated spending some time on campus interacting with peers and faculty, they also craved the flexibility provided by online coursework. This year St. Kate's responded, training faculty in the basics of e-education, designing a new coursework system and rebranding the program as Evening/Weekend/Online.
In the past, Weekend College courses met on campus for several hours every weekend; now students gain the same credit through every-other-weekend meetings combined with rigorous online coursework and group projects. This combination approach is called "hybrid" learning, says Joan Robertson, Evening/Weekend/Online director.
"We made the changes because the marketplace for adults returning to college is much larger now than it was when St. Catherine first launched Weekend College," Robertson explains. "Prospective students were telling us that they were looking for a more flexible and convenient approach to higher education, one that blends on-campus, face-to-face experiences with online learning."
Other St. Catherine programs are also offering more hybrid courses. Matt Byrne, assistant professor in the graduate nursing program, taught a fully online course for graduate nursing students in Fall 2011. He also completed a series of SLOAN-C training courses that helped him brush up on basic concepts of online instruction.
"I think this direction is the natural evolution in higher education," he says. "The market pressure is strong. If St. Kate's wants to be more competitive with other programs, this is the way we need to be heading. Hybrid learning helps us capitalize on our best tools."
So far, Robertson reports that student reactions to the program redesign have been overwhelmingly positive.
"Current student enrollment is at 120 percent of what we projected," she says. "This tells us that our current students were ready for the change and they are embracing it. If we use our current students as a measure of the marketplace, it means we are moving in the right direction. Students have been asking us to do this for three years, so they are thrilled."