Distance Learning Done Right at eVersity

eVersity Professor Sunni Davis
Sunni Davis, Ph.D., has been a passionate advocate for distance learning for the past 20 years. She said the University of Arkansas System eVersity gets things right when it comes to methodology and support for students.

“Those are two things that are outstanding about eVersity,” she said. “They have developed a curriculum that addresses the needs of both student and employers and they have developed an advising program that helps put students in the correct classes at the correct time and keeps students and advising staff in close contact with each other.”

In addition to teaching courses with eVersity, Davis also teaches within the UA System at Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas.

“(eVersity) has a passion to bring education to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to complete their degree,” Davis said. “If there are any problems they are caught early and that gives students a better chance to complete their degree.”

She said the proof of the system is the manner in which it creates group learning, even though classes are conducted in a 100 percent-online environment.

“The big thing is to develop a learning community and that comes from the student’s initial contact,” Davis said. “The courses have initial context for the students and then they get together, they talk, they exchange ideas, they discuss things. I know that with my courses we do this with every single module.”

As an educator, Davis also appreciates the online format because of how it enhances the way communication occurs between herself and the students, and how the online environment encourages people to engage more compared to having to speak up in front of a physical audience.

“Communication is the key and online communication gives students a chance to think before they respond,” Davis said. “So, their learning is deeper, their learning is richer, they have more texture to what they’re actually learning and creating. They’re not in a classroom where they have to take notes really fast and think of what they’re going to say right now. They have the chance to stop and think and then react. That’s worth everything.”

Davis, who teaches English, history and speech communication, said all of this combines to allow students to lend their own life experiences and deeper perspectives to the subject matter.

“(eVersity) is a very diverse clientele,” she said. “You have a blending of life experiences, you’ve got women, you’ve got men, old folks, young folks. They’ve got families, different types of jobs, they’re from all four corners of the state.”

“They draw from these life experiences to add to the classroom discussion, bringing a diverse range of ideas, creativity and adaptability to everything that is in the curriculum.”