Binghamton University releases guide for distance learning

Center for Teaching and Learning launches B-Online to teach students proper work etiquette, how to use Turnitin, Blackboard

For years students have been skipping class in Lecture Hall to stay online, but now Binghamton University is directing students back to class through their computers.

The Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) is launching a new program called B-Online: An Online Learning Immersion Experience, providing an orientation aimed at addressing the technical issues that many students have with online education.

The program, which is set to be released today in advance of the summer session, will not be mandatory for students taking online classes, but instead will be an additional resource that students are encouraged to consult.

“[B-Online’s] purpose is to help first-time online learning students gather the experience and skills needed for success in summer and winter session online courses,” Murnal Abate, assistant director for summer and winter sessions at the CLT and a professor in the economics department, wrote in an email. “It would also be a valuable resource for students who are curious about taking an online Binghamton University course but feel they need more information before making a decision.”

B-Online is organized into four modules, which include guides to Blackboard, Turnitin, online learning and checking work online.

According to Abate, the CLT used student feedback to create modules that would improve online programming.

“Last August, the university’s summer and winter session operations was reorganized into the CLT. At that time — and encouraged by Provost Neiman — we began seeking ways to enhance the quality of summer and winter session courses, while simultaneously promoting and supporting the academic success of Binghamton students,” Abate wrote.

Online education is gaining popularity at BU, according to Abate. In the summer 2013 and winter 2013 sessions alone, 3,650 students took at least one online class. Since 2010, participation in online classes has been growing at a rate of 12 percent per year. Brian Hopkins, a sophomore majoring in accounting, took Calculus I online.

“The fact that you can go at your own pace makes online classes a lot easier,” Hopkins said. “Especially in a class like calculus, where they go so fast at Binghamton, it really helps to be able to get things done on your own schedule.”

Some students said they preferred not to take online courses because they wanted to learn the material in person, wanted to have a more rigid schedule or believed the classes would be too difficult.

“Maybe I would take an online class for a GenEd or something like that, but I would try to avoid it if it was a class that had to do with my major,” said Hannah Hersch, a freshman majoring in management. “I feel like you don’t really learn the material unless you have a teacher in front of you teaching it.”

According to Abate, the most successful online learners are those who treat the online class like a real class by studying the material and doing work for it every day.

“If you are not completely sure about taking an online course—if you are not excited and motivated to take on the challenge of that online course—do yourself a favor and wait to take one,” Abate wrote. “Or, explore B-Online to get a better sense of what this new way of learning is all about…and then make up your mind as to whether online learning is right for you.”