|navigate: home: magazine: fall 1999: article|
Turfgrass student from Washington state visits University Park|
By Steve Infanti
Lee Anderson, a golf course superintendent in Sumner, Wash., really enjoyed the turfgrass management classes he was taking through distance education from Penn State. But one thought nagged at him. Were his distance education classes as good as the same classes that were being taught to students on Penn States campus?|
He decided to fly across the country to find out.
I wanted to see if I was missing anything by not being in a classroom with other students, and I really wanted to meet the instructors, because I had spent so much time with them on-line, said Anderson, who works at Sumner Meadows Golf Links, a city-owned 18-hole golf course.
He used the two airline tickets he won at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America annual conference. The tickets were good for any destination in the world. Instead of flying to Bermuda to get some sun, he flew across country with his brother to Harrisburg on Jan. 24, rented a four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle, drove 90 miles to State College, Pa., and checked into The Nittany Lion Inn.
People were a little surprised that I was going to spend my vacation in Central Pennsylvania during winter. I brought extra sweaters, he said.
Instead of being in front of his computer terminal at home, he spent the next three days sitting in on the turfgrass management classes being taught the conventional way at the University.
The program has really excited me over the past year, and this was something that I really wanted to do. I wanted to set foot on the campus. The faculty welcomed me with open arms, invited me into their classrooms, and I took advantage of it, he said.
The bottom line, Anderson added, is that the on-line programs are just like being in the classroom.
The World Campus is not virtual. It is the real Penn State experience, Dr. Gary Miller, associate vice president for distance education and executive director of the World Campus, said. This reflects our approach to distance learning, which is rooted in the integrity of our curriculum, the reputation of our faculty and the high quality of our student services. Students taking courses through the World Campus are receiving instruction from some of our best teachers in some of our signature academic disciplines.
While the World Campus and our on-campus classrooms both demonstrate Penn States academic quality, they are not exactly the same, Miller added. For example, the World Campus gives students from different parts of the countryeven different parts of the worldthe opportunity to share experiences in how best to respond to different soils or climatic conditions. For the working professional, this can be a real learning advantage.
Penn States World Campus is one-and-a-half years old and offers distance education in Turfgrass Management, Chemical Dependency Counseling, Noise Control Engineering, Geographic Information Systems, Business Logistics, Fundamentals of Engineering, Nutrition/Dietary Systems, Teacher Education, Customer Relations, Reliability Engineering and Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management. Other courses are being developed. The courses were selected because Penn State determined there was a market and that it could do a good job in delivering the instruction.
The on-line courses work better for me because they give me more flexibility because Im balancing these courses with my family life and my job, Anderson said.
As in most professions, golf course superintendents have to stay up to date with the latest trends in their field, so Anderson signed up for the World Campus course Turf 235 in March 1998. He later enrolled in Turf 334 and Turf 436. Anderson typifies many of the students taking distance education courses on-line.
Taking college classes over the Internet extends the reach of education and provides an opportunity to learn for many people who otherwise wouldnt be able to attend traditional college classes, said Dr. A.J. Turgeon, professor of agronomy at Penn State. He teaches the World Campus Turfgrass Management courses.
Web-based learning may not be for everyone, but it is an effective way of getting a Penn State education for those wanting to learn while earning a living, Turgeon said.
Many of the students taking Turgeons on-line turfgrass management classes are just like Anderson. Theyre golf course superintendents, assistant superintendents or members of the crew who want to advance.
Anderson said, I took night courses at local community colleges in the past, but they were very taxing on my family and social life. This option allows me to continue my education while working, and I get to enjoy a family life. Continuing education is important because any piece of extra knowledge can help me start the next century with solid footing in my career.
The 39-year-old native of Orting, Wash., has worked in the golf course industry for 22 years, but believes the courses he has taken on-line are making him more competent in his job.
They have certainly changed my vision on how to do different tasks, Anderson said. And I got the same quality of instruction I would have received at the campus itself.