UT online enrollment grows 81% since 2015

Mariane Gutierrez

Online class enrollment at UT has grown 81% between 2015 and 2018, according to the Austin American-Statesman, meaning nearly a quarter of the student body was enrolled in an online class in 2018.

UT began offering online courses to its students in 2012 through the College of Liberal Arts and has since added more of them for different majors, said Joseph TenBarge, assistant dean at the College of Liberal Arts.

According to the College of Liberal Arts website, the University currently offers two types of online courses, one being a livestream that is scheduled just like an in-person lecture, and another that is “on-demand” to the student’s schedule with assignment due dates every week.

“Students nowadays are very comfortable with the tools that are required to take a class online,” TenBarge said. “So we began working with the model we’re currently using, which is what we call the live course model.”

Marla Gilliland, director of course development at the College of Liberal Arts, said the University launched online curriculum to adapt to a new generation of students that is more comfortable with learning online.

“Online courses are of interest to students because of their convenience,” Gilliland said. “It can be easier to work them into your schedule. It’s also because they are livestreaming courses taught by top faculty, and they’re interactive so it’s a little bit of a different experience.” 

Majors can have a variety of requirements, which mechanical engineering freshman Andres Valdiviezo said makes his schedule tight. Valdiviezo chose to take online courses for classes that matter less to his major so he could satisfy the requirements on his own time.

“I had previous experience taking courses that were not important to my major, (and) that ended up being harder than what I needed them to be,” Valdiviezo said. “I decided that I could try taking an online course that would require less of my time.” 

TenBarge said because the new generation of students are more comfortable learning online, there is much better communication in the classes.

“When students take our courses, we give a survey at the end of the semester, and students replied that (online classes) are better than the other large courses they take,” TenBarge said. “That’s because in an auditorium it’s much more difficult to have an interactive classroom and have students chatting.”

Gilliland said the College of Liberal Arts is continuing to develop online course tools to provide a better learning experience for students. She said the University will innovate courses by introducing cutting-edge methods of course production in the future, such as polishing the livestreaming platform.

“(UT) has been able to increase both the number of online courses as well as the enrollment in those courses,” Gilliland said. “The leadership and the faculty at UT are not only more equipped to have that conversation about their strategies delivering courses online, but they are able to plan more effectively, so we are experiencing tremendous growth because of that.”