Mac offers first online course

Hannah Zeeb

Staff Writer

Friday, October 26, 2012

Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012

A Macalester math class will not be in Olin Rice this summer as per usual. Instead, Mathematics professor Chad Topaz and a professor from St. Olaf, Tina Garrett, will take math to the web and teach an online calculus course for college credit.

This is the first online course offered for Macalester credit and will be available for all Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) students, which includes colleges such as Macalester, St. Olaf, Grinnell and Carleton, among others.
 
The proposed name for the course is Calculus: a Modeling Approach. According to Topaz, a task force is figuring out the specifics of how the course will run from now until the end of the year. He believes that the course will be capped at around 20 students.
 
The goal for the course is to bring the liberal arts college feel of small classes and personalized learning online. The task force is still deciding on how this will be accomplished, but Topaz says they have discussed ideas such as video office hours and weekly professor tutorials with small groups of students. 
 
The logistics will be decided as plans move forward.
 
Topaz is excited to be a part of the experience. He has always been tech savvy and likes to teach in a “flipped classroom” format in which he lectures online for students to watch beforehand and in class instead of just talking continuously. This enables him to interact with his students and benefits his “on-the-ground” Macalester students.
 
When critics say online courses can be depersonalized, Topaz disagrees. 
 
“It has the potential to make things better if used efficiently,” he said.
 
An online course will allow students flexibility and, according to Topaz, will be “better for certain people’s learning styles.” 
 
Each college will decide on the amount of credit given for the course, but Topaz believes it will be around four credits, like an average Macalester semester-long class. 
 
The online math course is still in the process of being completed. Topaz says the online versatility will “go a step further" and hopes that more online courses will soon follow.

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