When Tyler Ligon decided to enroll in the online section of ACC 508 (Advanced Commercial Law) this past school year, he did so for the flexibility.
“I wanted to free up my schedule so I could choose when and where to learn the course material,” said Ligon, a 2018 graduate of NC State Poole College of Management’s Jenkins Master of Accounting (Jenkins MAC) program.
The online course, delivered asynchronously, allowed him to better manage his time in the intensive graduate program.
“If my in-person classes were piling up work during one week, I could put more effort into those during that busy time, then pick up where I left off in my online class,” Ligon said.
Flexibility is the name of the game as the Jenkins MAC program moves toward offering online sections of an increasing number of courses.
“We want to provide more options for our traditional master of accounting students,” said Scott Showalter, director of the Jenkins MAC program. “We believe students are looking for alternatives in the delivery of their education.”
Online course offerings build on a trend that NC State’s forward-thinking educators have seen coming for a while, Showalter said. In tandem with increasing online course offerings, NC State recognizes the traditional method of getting a college degree out of high school and rely on that degree for the rest of one’s life is quickly disappearing. Instead, Showalter said, professional learning has become a lifelong process.
“That’s going to become the norm,” he said. “We are striving to provide the platform and flexibility in all of our programs – including accounting – to enable professional development when people need it.”
Part- and full-time students will reap the benefits as well. Online courses will serve those who can’t afford to take nine months off to pursue a full-time MAC degree, but can squeeze in one or two online courses each semester and take longer to earn their degree, Showalter said.
And, it will also serve full-time students such as Ligon who are seeking an alternative delivery method for their course materials.
“The Jenkins MAC Program has seen an increasing demand for online classes over the past few years,” said Andrea Young, associate director of the program. “A few years ago, we started putting just a couple of our classes online to see how the students liked them and to give the faculty an opportunity to adjust to the new mode of delivery. In the fall of 2018 semester all but two MAC classes will be available online.”
So what does an online course look like? Not all that different from a traditional classroom-based course. This fall, the Class of 2019 has the option to take courses in person or online. In most cases, the course is taught by the same person, Young said.
“This creates a hybrid type model where students have flexible options to create their schedule depending on their lifestyle,” she said.
In most cases, the MAC program offers three classroom-based sections for all required classes, Showalter said. This fall, a fourth section will be offered online.
The college has invested in building the necessary platform to support delivery of online classes, he said, allowing students taking the online section to have a very similar experience to that of sitting in the classroom during each class.
“By recording the class, and subsequently delivering it online, students can see the faculty member, hear the questions being asked and answers provided,” Showalter said.
When Stephanie Clark (’18 MAC program) took courses online this past academic year, she valued the option to review materials at any time, and as often as she needed.
“I like having the lectures online because I can rewind if I don’t catch something said right away and want to have the information repeated,” she said. “Additionally, the lectures are accessible at any time which really helps for reviewing material.”
The courses are not to the point where a student listening online can ask a question or join the discussion, however students don’t miss out on important faculty interaction. Students can interact with faculty just as a traditional classroom-based students would – through faculty office hours or google hangout, or by phone or email.
The class follows the seated class, offering the same assignments, grading and testing, Showalter said.
An added benefit is the ability for the student to move at his or her own pace over the course of the semester.
“I enjoyed learning at my own pace and choosing certain days where I would focus on my online class,” Ligon said. “Accounting is a challenging major, so having the ability to watch lectures at your own pace and choose what topics to spend more time on is a huge advantage.”
It also provides the Jenkins MAC program the option to offer more subjects to students, Showalter said. The Accounting Department will offer an online Tax Analytics & Technology graduate certificate program in 2019, through which participants earn university credits. This summer, the program offered a three-hour online course in data analytics based on content from the Tax Analytics & Technology certificate program, he said.
“I think with the rising costs associated with graduate school, more students will be working or hoping to do internships so they will need more flexibility with their schedules as I did,” Clark said. “Additionally, I think advances in technology for remote work will increase the online delivery method capabilities to where online courses will be an optimal choice for courses that do not require heavy interactions between the professor and students.”
Ligon feels certain that future students will appreciate these options.
“I think NC State and Poole College in particular will really benefit from offering more online course options,” he said. “The other students I’ve talked to in my online course section agreed they are glad they took it online as it made life easier during the MAC program.”
“Looking back at my undergraduate classes, I wish there had been more availability of online sections so offering these in the future will be an attractive option for students.”
“We are looking forward to meeting the needs of our students by providing flexible options for all of our students,” Showalter concluded.
This article was written for Poole College by Lea Hart.