Those students are the focus of a new state initiative designed to broaden the reach of higher education. Last year, Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson appointed a task force to look for ways to expand Oklahoma's online course offerings.
Johnson said online and hybrid courses are an important piece of the state's efforts to increase college graduation rates overall. Higher education officials estimate there are about 72,000 students in Oklahoma who have 70 college credits or more, but dropped out of college before finishing their degree.
Many of those students aren't able to come back to school full time, but would still like to finish their degrees, Johnson said. To reach those students, he said, the state needs to pursue a range of options — both in the classroom and online.
“It's not going to be one or the other,” he said.
Although the hybrid model has potential, it isn't without its flaws.
Earlier this year, Desire2Learn, the online education portal UCO uses for its online and hybrid courses, experienced outages for several days. While the program was down, students couldn't access course materials, take tests or turn in assignments.
During the outage, Foster pushed back a few deadlines and asked students to submit some assignments through email, she said.
“There are always technology glitches in online classes,” she said. “It's just like if there were a snow day.”
Bob Greve, a professor at Oklahoma City University's Meinders School of Business, taught a hybrid course in quantitative analysis last summer. The course was a part of the school's accelerated Master of Business Administration program, which is geared toward working adults.
Greve's class met in person once a week. Between sessions, students watched video lectures in which Greve worked through problems.
Having students watch lectures outside of class helped him make the most out of class time, he said, and students said they liked that they could rewind the videos and review sections they didn't understand.
Although the online portion of the class is helpful, Greve said, it's also helpful that it augments the classroom sessions but doesn't replace them. He could still build a relationship with students, and they could still benefit from face-to-face interaction with a professor.
“You're getting the professor's insights and thoughts and war stories,” he said. “It's kind of the best of both worlds.”