Southeast excelling in online learning

Online instruction at Southeast Missouri State University has come a long way since the university first tested it out just before the turn of the century.

Southeast, which first offered online courses in 1999, had its online bachelor's degree programs ranked 28th nationally in a recent U.S. News and World Report listing.

Southeast also ranked the highest of Missouri schools and its online master of business administration program was ranked 82nd.

Allen Gathman, dean of online learning at Southeast, told reporter Tyler Graef that the university's first step toward internet learning was building secure gradebooks for faculty, then a few other applications that made supporting entire online courses possible.

"Piece by piece, they'd created a learning-management system online. Then somebody realized, 'Gosh, we have enough to put an actual course online,'" Gathman said.

Gathman, who taught a biology course that was among the first dozen courses offered online, said students then appreciated the flexibility of an online course.

The first fully online degree in general studies became offered in 2003 and now more than 30 online degrees are offered. In 2015, about 22 percent of credit hours were completed online.

Timothy Judd, a professor of biology at Southeast, noted that his students save money by not having to purchase some of the more expensive books because he's able to post more photos, videos and other resources online.

And Southeast is even using online learning to reach high schoolers, who can take dual-credit courses.

"Analysis provided by the university also showed student outcomes in online courses did not show a statistically-significant deviation from outcomes in a face-to-face setting," Graef reported, so it doesn't appear that there's a major learning disadvantage to taking courses online.

We're impressed with the progress Southeast made in online learning and congratulate them on their high ranking.