Posted: January 14, 1999
California State University, Sacramento has announced plans to become the first university in the state to offer a public relations program by Internet and cable television.
Beginning in fall 1999, students who have completed lower division work and met other University requirements will be able to complete distance courses for a major in communications studies with an emphasis in public relations in as few as three semesters.
The move will make one of the state's most innovative communication studies programs available to anyone, anywhere who is qualified to enroll. It is the latest in a series of distance learning initiatives by the University.
"This is an exciting move for us. It's going to allow us to reach students who couldn't attend otherwise," said Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater, chair of the CSUS communication studies department.
von Friederichs-Fitzwater was one of the University's first professors to offer a course entirely by the Internet, and now teaches two such courses C advanced public relations and health communication.
"What has truly surprised me, and what has been very gratifying, is that I find these courses actually increase my interaction with students," von Friederichs-Fitzwater says. AThrough email and phone contact, I feel like I get to know students better than in a traditional classroom."
Already, five other communication studies professors teach Internet courses or distance courses with a strong Internet component. Four of these courses are offered this spring.
To enroll in the distance public relations program, students must first complete lower division work at CSUS or a community college. They also will be required to have access to the Internet and cable television, though eventually the program will be offered entirely by Internet so that even more students can be served.
Students enrolled in traditional courses at CSUS will be able to enroll in the distance courses as well.
The new program is set to begin just two years after the University offered its first course completely by the Internet. That geology course, first taught by Susan Slaymaker in fall 1997, has proven highly popular and is now one of 10 Internet courses offered at CSUS this spring. In addition, three courses this spring are a mix of Internet and cable, and four are a mix of Internet and the traditional classroom.
Students have responded well to the online approach, according to professors who teach the Internet courses. Like von Friederichs-Fitzwater, many professors say their Internet courses lead to increased interaction with individual students.
With dozens of professors now taking University-sponsored workshops on providing Internet-based courses, the number of these courses is expected to increase rapidly in coming years. Also expected to continue at CSUS and nationally are questions about how Internet courses and other distance learning courses affect learning, faculty workload and copyright protections.
More information regarding online offerings at CSUS is available at www.csus.edu/online, and information on distance education offerings from public and private California universities is available through California Virtual University at www.california.edu.
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