At a glance
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*Enrollment includes part-time and full-time students
Wouldn't you know it? The morning that IPFW associate professor Geralyn Miller was going to demonstrate the set-up for teaching her online business classes, the computer system was down.
“The equipment is challenging and that is one of the downsides of online classes,” she said, smiling. “You must have the resources to maintain the equipment to compete,” Miller said.
IPFW is competing, and its success in online learning is evident. In 2014, the university placed ninth in the nation in 2014 in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of the 2014 best online bachelor's programs.
Miller has been at IPFW since 2000 and is considered one of the university's online learning pioneers. She teaches in IPFW's Department of Accounting and Finance and her online courses include the social, legal and ethical implication of business decisions and principles of management.
Some students sign up for online courses and mistakenly expect them to be easier than traditional classroom studies.
“Some kids have misconceptions that an online class will be easier, and then, when they find out that it requires tons of work, they get upset,” Miller said.
There are two types of online courses: Strictly online and hybrid, which is a mix of online studies and traditional classroom time. Miller has taught both.
“Hybrid is the best way to learn,” she said.
Miller's online classes incorporate two formats: in the fall and spring semesters, she teaches one hybrid course, which is a combination of in-class and online instruction.
That class is also provided in an online section so that the distance students can watch the live segments of the course streamed to them from the in-class section, Miller said. During the summer, she teaches a section of that class that is completely delivered in distance format using pre-recorded, voiced-over PowerPoint slides.
The other course is taught completely in distance format or strictly online.
“In that one, I post a set of pre-recorded voiceover slides that the students can access at leisure,” Miller said. That course has been especially great for students who are in the military and have been deployed.
“They can still continue their education from Afghanistan or wherever they are stationed,” Miller said.
Sometimes the students and online teachers are in two different worlds.
“The night owls may be up studying and then email me a question,” Miller said. “And some get angry when I don't answer at 2 a.m.”
She does try to respond as quickly as possible.
IPFW graduate Cameron Braun knows Miller is concerned about students learning. Braun earned a bachelor's degree in finance in 2010 and is co-founder of Abstract Coffee, which specializes in sourcing and importing green coffee from South America.
In an interview posted on the IPFW website, Braun described Miller as a mentor.
“I think some professors forget that their main job should be to help you find and start a career,” Braun wrote. “I immediately knew that wasn't the case with Dr. Miller and she had a genuine interest in helping her students.
“She was always a great resource during school and since graduation we have kept in close contact. I know I can always count on her to have her as a resource for any life or career question I might have.”
Brandon Miller, no relation to Geralyn Miller, has also taken online courses.
The 22-year-old full-time student from Fort Wayne plans to graduate from IPFW in December with a double major in marketing and management.
“The online courses allow a lot of time to do the work outside of the classroom, which is great for me,” said Miller, who works in IPFW's Marketing Communications Department. “The flexibility to work on your own when you have time is nice.”
He especially likes the hybrid course lectures.
“The lectures are better in a traditional classroom setting,” he said. “Online, the lectures are very monotone and it's hard to engage and interact with the professor.”
Miller says he prefers a hybrid course to a strictly online course.
“I … like them better because I have the opportunity to go in and talk to the professor,” he said. “For that reason and the lectures, I do not like the online, as well. I don't feel I learn as much and they require even more self-discipline.”
He also finds the discussion posts (online) especially helpful.
Professor Miller, who owns a pawn shop in Columbus, Ohio, uses her business experiences to provide perspective to students, including making videos of her shop to show students what's involved.
“I try to bring in the real world with real-world examples and not do the traditional thing and stand and lecture,” Miller said, noting how teaching approaches have evolved.
“We are not going back to brick and mortar,” she said. “And that's the way it should be – it's the way these kids grew up.”