Distance Learning Creates Pathways for eVersity Students

One false narrative of online coursework is the way it tends to isolate students and prohibit group interaction. But according to University of Arkansas System eVersity instructor Caitlin Howe, those problems are minimized through the 100 percent-online institution’s structure and mode of communication.

“If you’re in the classroom you have more teacher-student interaction. That can be harder to get in an online setting,” she said. “I think eVersity does a good job of providing that student-teacher interaction through discussions by encouraging the students to reach out to the teachers and the teachers to reach out to the students. The way the assignments are set up, it makes it necessary to have a discussion. As far as the classes I have taught through eVersity, I felt we have had really good student interaction.”

Part of what feeds that two-way flow of communication is the lengths that eVersity goes toward making all students feel comfortable in the online environment, starting with the empathy of the teaching staff.

“A lot of the students from eVersity have not been in the classroom for a while,” Howe said. “So coming back to school would be an adjustment in and of itself, whether it’s in the classroom or online. I’ve had several students who reached out and said, ‘I just started online classes. I haven’t really had much experience.’ They’ll tell me that at the beginning and I’m definitely willing to work with them if they have any problems. It’s a pretty short learning curve for most people.”

Howe, a native of Helena, Ark., comes from a region of the state where educational and professional opportunities are limited. She said the presence of an all-online university pays big dividends for such areas, giving students who could not otherwise attend school a chance to finish their degree.

“As an all-online institution, eVersity reaches the students who may not have the opportunity to go to an in-class setting whether that’s because of job commitments or location or they just don’t have the access to an in-class education,” she said.

On the other hand, Howe said eVersity’s convenience and low cost is also starting to catch on with younger students, who are a growing share of the student body.

“The most recent course I taught, which was Introduction to Health Care System, the majority of students were what you would think of as nontraditional, having been out of school for a while and working full time,” Howe said. “But then there were several students who had graduated just a few years ago from high school.”

Online learning can fill a void for students in different ways across a wide spectrum of perceived barriers. “Regardless of age or circumstances, I think eVersity does a great job of reaching students who can’t be in the classroom for whatever reason,” Howe said.