Cyberspace 101 Community college's Internet courses give students another option.


THE COLLEGE CAMPUS expanded into living rooms years ago when schools, including Howard Community College, brought us televised courses. A sure sign that technology is gaining a foothold in another corner of the home becomes evident today, when HCC begins holding eight courses for credit over the Internet.

Instead of interpersonal classroom discussions, students enrolled in such subjects as economics, literature and music appreciation will converse in "real-time chats" while staring into their own computer screens. E-mail will be a main vehicle of communication between instructor and student.

The school's site on the World Wide Web also will help students in online classes surf the Internet to find information related to their courses. A couple of keystrokes and music appreciation students seeking biographical information on Johann Sebastian Bach can zip to a wealth of material about famous composers at a university web site.

This is a logical progression for HCC, considered a leader among Maryland community colleges in the use of technology. Hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide already offer online courses, in part because of the Internet's exponential growth and the fact that this medium is becoming increasingly easy to use.

HCC's online courses should broaden the school's reach to students with limited mobility and to students whose tight schedules make time a premium. A bonus is that parking -- usually the biggest HCC student complaint -- will matter only the two or three times a semester that participants will have to meet on campus. And the online sessions will be almost like having a stenographer for the class; discussions will generate instantaneous transcripts, giving students a chance to review material.

For sure, some HCC students will insist on the comfort of the classroom for their courses; others are too uncomfortable with or BTC too intimidated by the Internet's seemingly cryptic language to enroll in the online program. The Internet courses, however, give community college students another educational option outside the classroom. Given the Internet's enormous resources, online programs appear to have the potential to be more effective than the study-at-home methods that have preceded it.

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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