Are Utah Tech University’s online programs actually all online?

Kaitlyn Peterson, a freshman pre nursing student from Idaho Falls, gets frustrated with the online degrees. Abigail Byington | Sun News Daily

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Thanks to the ever looming factor of COVID-19, the variety of online classes has increased exponentially at Utah Tech University.

However, students may still run into a couple of obstacles if they want to go completely online.

In order to find more details about the online programs at Utah Tech, students will navigate their way to Utah Tech’s online program portal. While some of the courses are clear about the possibility of completing the entire degree online, some of the others are not as cut and dry.

For instance, communication studies may think it’s possible to complete their requirements through an all online format since it’s available on the online programs page. This is not the case. Fine print can be found in the program overview section of the course page.

It says: “Some of the elective courses are not currently offered online but will be soon. This means if you are currently a junior or a senior you need to speak with an academic adviser to see if you can complete this degree online.”

Bryan Jacobs, the senior adviser for the college of humanities and social sciences, has dealt with many students looking to take advantage of the online format, but many of them don’t notice the fine print found on the website.

Jacobs said: “I’ve had to shoot down the hopes of those hoping to complete their communications BS [Bachelor of Science] entirely online. The problem is that we don’t have any degree programs in communications that can be completed in an all online setting. So in that sense, the website can be seen as a bit misleading.”

Jacobs said the reason the misunderstanding happened in the first place was because of decisions from a previous communication studies department chair.

“A lot of these decisions were made by administrative staff who aren’t working at the university anymore,” Jacobs said. “So when problems with the online format of the program come up, there’s a good chance it was from the previous staff who set up the program.”

This isn’t the case with every program at Utah Tech, some of the majors at the university have been able to create completely remote programs with no in-person requirements. The nursing program offered at Utah Tech is an example of an entire degree being implemented online.

However, this does not count for general education classes.

Amy Fletcher, online programs adviser, helps the online nursing students find their pathway to graduation without ever meeting with them face-to-face.

“Every student that comes in has an associate of applied science, and many of them have an associated science,” Fletcher said. “So they’ve done their general education and just need to complete their bachelors from where they’re at.

Turns out online general education classes aren’t in abundance as much as Fletcher would hope. Whenever the classes are offered online, such as a required math class, it’s in such a demand that the seats are taken at a serious pace.

Fletcher said: “An associate of applied science doesn’t always have a complete set of general education credits. It’s usually abbreviated, so they need a certain number of requirements to get into their applied science program. They typically need fine arts, humanities and American institutions. Those classes have options online, but it’s highly competitive to get a seat in those classes.”

The online nursing program has fine print in the form of needing an associate in applied science before participating in the online courses. While this method is easier to understand then what’s seen on the communication studies online page, it’s still a speed-bump when looking for completely online schooling.

This caveat is echoed by Marc Lundstrom, the executive director of Utah Tech Online. Lundstrom is constantly working with the faculty in all departments interested in the online format, but he also mentioned the struggles of making online general education classes more readily available for students.

Lundstrom said: “We’re working with chairs and faculty to get those courses that may not yet be developed for online delivery, whether it be for junior or senior years, or wherever they’re at. It’s certainly a process as there is a lot that goes into developing a good online course. It’s a process that takes a while, and there are courses that an online student may not be able to get into as they’re eaten up quickly.”

The staff who works on the online infrastructure are always trying to find ways to accommodate those who may be struggling in an online environment. Lundstrom is also working towards getting more classes that are exclusively for online students.

This also includes experimenting with new formats of education such as a new physics lab course in development that will take place in virtual reality.

It’s still unclear as to when more measures will be put in place to help online students plan out their roadmap to graduation. Although the staff for Utah Tech Online understands the issue and will hope to fix it sooner, rather than later.