Research assistant professor Emmett Ientilucci teaches an introduction to radiometry, as Kelly Vanderwerff of South Dakota and Timothy Smith of Alexandria, Virginia, follow the class with their webcams, at the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science of the Rochester Institute of Technology. / CARLOS ORTIZ/staff photographer
Rochester Institute of Technology student Kelly Vanderwerff can attest that online learning does not have to mean the student is cut out of the classroom experience.
As assistant research professor Emmett Ientilucci recently gave a lecture, Vanderwerff attentively watched from her office in Sioux Falls, S.D. — about 1,200 miles away — and asked a question about a homework problem.
Webcams in the classroom and attached to her laptop put her in the classroom.
“It’s awesome,” said Venderwerff, 24, an electrical engineer who hopes that this class on radiometry — the science of measuring light energy — will help with her upcoming project processing and archiving satellite images.
Vanderwerff is one of 1,532 RIT students now taking courses online, with some students enrolled in more than one of these classes.
This fall, four-year and community colleges in the Rochester area are offering 556 online courses that have an enrollment of 15,859, with the actual number of students taking these courses being smaller since some take multiple courses.
In addition, thousands more students are enrolled in courses that have an online component, such as the professor delivering the lecture online, so classroom time can be used for discussion.
Online courses can connect students around the globe with a college. Hongqian Tan, who studied music at Nazareth College last school year, is now taking an online course from Nazareth about the history of piano music from her home in Shandong, China.
But the biggest value of online learning — what attracts the most students — is that these courses permit local residents to advance their education while working and raising a family. That’s why community colleges have such large online enrollments.
“Online leaning is especially about accessibility for students. So many of our students are adults. They have families and can’t come to the campus,“ said Larry Dugan, director of online learning for Finger Lakes Community College.