EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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January 19, 2014

SNHU emerging as online education leader

President expects to top 35,000 students this year

(Continued)

He notes Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are now offering some courses online.

“That is really validating,” he said.

Babson Survey Research Group at Babson College last week issued a study, saying more than 7 million students are taking courses online with 6 percent growth year over year.

But the number of academic leaders rating the outcomes of online learning the same or better than the classroom declined, from 77 to 74 percent, showing some in higher education still have their doubts.

Carmen Federico of Salem, a controller who is an accounting instructor for SNHU, has taught both online and in the classroom.

“I find students have to work a little harder online,” Federico said.

With participation required in discussion boards, students can’t hide out as they can in some classrooms.

“It absolutely changes that dynamic,” Federico said. “Everyone has to participate.”

McCutcheon said instructors benefit from flexible scheduling, too, and he also enjoys the diversity of the online classroom.

He has had courses with students from Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, even Saudi Arabia.

The sets up a different kind of learning discussion than might happen if the students all were from Derry or Londonderry, he said.

“You get a wider variety of students,” McCutcheon said. “It makes for a better class.”

Federico and McCutcheon aren’t surprised students praise their instructors.

“I would say adjuncts provide a lot of value to students,” Federico said. “They are bringing real life experience.”

McCutcheon can tell his students enjoy hearing stories from him about his police work.

“I will tell them that yesterday I had a guy I arrested for such and such,” McCutcheon said. “That is much more interesting to them.”

SNHU provides training and mentoring for instructors.

“Adjuncts who have taught elsewhere remark on the difference at SNHU,” LeBlanc said.

SNHU’s chief academic officer, Gregory Fowler, said the university has a pool of 2,400 adjuncts.

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