Southeast Missouri State University
For more information, contact:
Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552




CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 4, 2002 - Southeast student Dave Merrill is enrolled in a full semester of online courses this fall, trading a semester of traditional college experience for the convenience that Web courses offer. Merrill, a senior from O'Fallon, Ill., is majoring in integrated marketing communications in the Donald L. Harrison College of Business.

Merrill decided on the untraditional approach to classes this semester to take advantage of an opportunity to intern as a youth minister at his church, Hope Church, in Belleville, Ill. He plans to attend seminary after graduation from Southeast, and hopes to eventually incorporate his marketing degree into his career in ministry.

Merrill is taking 12 hours of online courses, including some University Studies courses that are required for all Southeast students as well as courses required for his major. Merrill's courses include "Comparative Political Systems," "Management Information Systems," "Drugs and Behavior" and "Professional Selling." He also is hoping to receive marketing credit for his internship.

He appreciates the flexibility of the Web courses. "I really enjoy the free time it gives me during the week to focus on my internship," Merrill said. "It's very convenient that I don't have to spend time in the classroom." The online courses have, however, proven to be more challenging than he had anticipated. "I find myself doing more work than I normally do for a class," he said. "One class is very time-consuming and hard to keep up with." He originally enrolled in 15 hours but ended up dropping a class because he didn't have enough time for everything. "It is a discipline challenge to complete the coursework, but it was with my traditional courses too," he added. "I still wait until the last minute."

Although the class format is different, Merrill feels he is learning as much as he did when he was attending classes. Students participating in the Web classes are not isolated from their classmates and professors; they interact with each other and hold discussions through online forums. "We have to read and comment on the materials and respond to others' comments," Merrill said. "Our professors expect us to do this throughout the week."

"The online approach to learning is very similar to correspondence courses or programmed instruction learning, but it allows for interaction with the instructor and other peers that you don't get with the other forms of delivery" said marketing professor Dr. Jack Sterrett, who teaches Merrill's "Professional Selling" class. In addition to interaction provided by online forums and chat rooms, Sterrett also has online office hours scheduled for students' questions. "The beauty of this process is the convenience factor," he added. "It affords distant learners like Merrill the opportunity to attain an education and still pursue other activities, such as employment and family obligations. Students don't have to be somewhere at a specific time. They can do coursework at any time their schedule allows for it."

Criminal justice professor Dr. Michael Brown, Merrill's "Drugs and Behavior" instructor, agrees about the convenience Web courses provide to students. "Online courses provide an opportunity for people who might not otherwise be able to obtain a degree," he said.

Merrill will complete his internship in December and will return to the Southeast campus for the spring semester. He plans to graduate in December 2003. He does not plan to take a full semester of Web courses again. He would not recommend, due to the time required for each class, that other students take a full load of online courses if they have any other major responsibilities in their life.

Southeast currently offers 60 online courses from 17 different academic departments. The courses range from entry-level to upper-level undergraduate and graduate classes.


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