Pandemic prompts university to add online learning option
George Fox University has launched an option for incoming freshmen that allows them to begin their education at home while recognizing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Termed George Fox Digital, the program allows freshman to enroll in a broad selection of remote general education classes that offer a "flexible learning schedule, the camaraderie and support of a community and mentorship … by professors who are experts in their field," according to a press release. The program is designed to allow incoming freshman to graduate in four years, with one year taken online and the other three in person on the Newberg campus.
The program also caters to sophomores wishing to complete general education credits and is in line with the "growing demand for online courses that offer more flexibility and affordability," the release said.
"These aren't your typical online courses — they are designed for a more intimate experience, where students will engage in a connected community led by a devoted mentor whom they can interact with as the course goes on," said Brian Doak, director of the program. "We want students to know we're here and we care, and that college doesn't have to be intimidating."
All of the courses will similarly structured, Doak said, in that there are no required, predetermined virtual meetings, but provide a structure and accountability as a cohort progresses together. The program offers "flexibility for students to engage in content at hours they choose," the release said.
"It may not be exactly the freshman experience students envisioned, but this allows them to start college, graduate in four years and move on with their lives," Doak said. "Our intent is to create a seamless experience, whereby students can take their first year remotely before joining us on campus for their sophomore year."
The eligible general education courses range from mathematics and biology to religion and history. Students studying online will have access to most of the university's resources, including the library and student lift staffs, campus pastors, faculty and administrative mentors.
The program, formed after the university announced in May that it would allow students to return to campus in the fall after shuttering the school in March due to the pandemic, is somewhat less expensive than attending classes in person on the Newberg campus.
"Our goal is to offer Oregon's premier online education option," Doak said. "The most important aspects of our online offerings are presence — our faculty will be there for students — the quality of our content, and rhythm, as we will be clear about what we expect. The bottom line is, even if a student can't come to campus in person, he or she doesn't have to fall behind. We're here to help them get their college experience started."
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