E-Learning: Indiana colleges take "distributed learning" to the next level.

Author:Cole, Stacy
Position:Education - Electronic learning offered at Indiana College Network - Statistical Data Included

In today's fast-paced world, finding time for much of anything beyond work and personal responsibilities becomes more difficult all the time. The idea of going back to college for many adults seems like an impossibility, with too much driving time and inconvenient schedules. And on-the-job training only seems to take away from time needed to finish everyday tasks.

Yet there is an option that is making these things much more realistic possibilities. E-learning, or education via the Internet, is allowing people to learn around their own schedules and at their own pace.

"We're getting students who know they need to further their education and really want to do that, but have limitations and can't pick up their family and move close to a university," says Sue Allmon, director of the student services center for the Indiana College Network.

ICN is a consortium of universities and colleges around the state that offer courses on the Web. Students can work through ICN to decide which courses best suit their needs and the university from which they would like to obtain the degree. Member institutions include Ball State University, Indiana State University, Indiana University, Ivy Tech State College, Purdue University, the University of Southern Indiana, Vincennes University and the Independent Colleges of Indiana.

Allmon says students have traditionally been older, instead of the typical 17- to 22-year-old undergraduate. "What we're seeing at ICN is that we're attracting the adult population," Allmon says. "It has been for the adult student who is place-bound and time-bound."

Internet learning is not a new concept. Many universities around the state have offered it for years, but instructors only lately have been able to offer students more features and sophisticated technological tools, such as streaming video and audio.

"Online education is sort of a work in progress. Students may have taken a course a few years ago, and been disappointed with it because the technology wasn't there, but now it is. They should consider it again," says Jeremy Dunning, dean of the School of Continuing Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. And students seem to be realizing the advantages of online courses.

Allmon says enrollment in online programs has grown dramatically. "We have set record enrollments each semester in the last year and a half," she says. In fall of 2000, 543 students were working through ICN, while in fall of 2001, 945 students were taking 1,504...

To continue reading