Going the distance


The majority of communication in online courses is text-based, according to a study by Columbia…

Georgia (Apr 23, 2012)

The majority of communication in online courses is text-based, according to a study by Columbia Business School, but text-based communication lacks cues such as facial expression and tone of voice. That same study, however, discovered the pitfalls of text-based interaction were easily overcome by a single phone call.

And, so begins a video on the Distance Learning Center’s website that gives faculty the opportunity to create an introductory video in lieu of individual phone calls or a mega conference call. The introductory videos are just one way the Distance Learning Center is trying to virtualize the campus for online students.

“Distance learning is not something we do, it is an inherent part of this institution now,” said Elke Leeds, interim executive director of the Distance Learning Center. “Our focus today is on how to provide better than, or equal, services to students who may never set foot on this campus.”

KSU began offering online classes in fall 2007 to respond to the needs of students who work full time and those who live far from campus. The program also helped to address the university’s growing capacity challenges. Early adopters of distance learning techniques were passionate about the new technologies, but it was more of an ad-hoc effort, and not an institutional priority.

Since the creation of the Distance Learning Center in 2010, there has been a 28 percent increase in online course enrollment, with 729 students taking only online courses, including 24 out-of-state students like Kris Moore from San Antonio, Texas.

“I love the program,” said Moore, a student in the online Master of Science in international policy management program. “When I found Kennesaw, everything about it was manageable.”

Moore said even an August campus-based orientation for online students was no problem.

“At the orientation, we got to meet everyone in the cohort, including the professors,” she said. “One professor even put together a photo album for us so we could put a face to a name on the screen if we forgot.”

That kind of engagement is critical to helping online students feel connected to the university, Leeds said, and it does not need to happen through on-campus face-to-face interaction.

“Students that are integrated into the university are more likely to succeed academically and socially, Leeds said. “We want our online students to feel as much a part of Kennesaw State as our on-campus students do.”

With seven degree programs completely online now, 14,922 enrollments in online course sections, and 378 course sections approved or in the process of development, distance learning at KSU is expanding its footprint and ensuring broader access to higher education for students in Georgia – and beyond.

“As a public state institution, we’re focused on putting not-for-profit back in online education,” Leeds said. “The premium priced for-profit institutions are not a viable financial option for most students. This is especially important at a time when student loan debt is growing faster than consumer credit card debt.”

--By Jennifer Hafer


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu