College of Liberal Arts to increase online courses

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Steven LeMieux, assistant director at the University’s Digital Writing and Research lab, speaks during a digital lesson plan open house sponsored by the college of Liberal Arts.
Photo Credit: Matt Robertson | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Liberal Arts and the Digital Writing and Research Lab are working to offer more online courses and incorporate new technology into traditional classrooms next semester.

The college is planning to add ten new online live and on-demand courses in government, history, English, economics, psychology, Islamic studies and classics.  

The Digital Writing and Research Lab, which is associated with the Department of Writing and Rhetoric in the College of Liberal Arts, has been working to incorporate technology into classrooms for 30 years, according to Beck Wise, assistant director of the lab.

“From the very beginning, we have tried to be at the very cutting edge of how we can use technology to teach writing,” Wise said.

Psychology professors James Pennebaker and Samuel Gosling currently teach Introduction to Psychology online, a course similar to ones planned for next semester. The two professors had the idea to combine their classes nine years ago and gradually started to incorporate technology into that classroom. Now, the pair broadcast their class live.

Pennebaker said he has seen students do better on these same assignments with the online format than in a traditional classroom.

“Student [sic] who take our online class do better on specific questions that we have asked in the past than the original students did — almost a letter grade better,” Pennebaker said in an email. “In addition, people who take our class do better in the other courses they are taking this semester. More impressive, they do better in the courses in the spring semester. Why? Because In our class, they learn to study more effectively and to think conceptually.”

Journalism freshman Wesley Story is currently enrolled in Pennebaker and Gosling’s online class. Story said while it is nice to not have to leave his dorm for class, it has taken some time to adjust to.

“The specific class I’m in does group chats, and we can send in questions to the professors, so that helps to keep the classroom feeling,” Story said.

Pennebaker said that while the current system for online courses isn’t perfect, he is glad to be a part of it.

“We are entering into an exciting world of educational opportunities that will change higher education as we know it,” Pennebaker said. “Today’s students are at the forefront of this revolution.”