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Campus Students Finding Success in Online Courses

Students spending time together on campus.

There have always been two well-known categories of Brigham Young University-Idaho students: on-campus day students, and online students. But a lesser-known group has been forming for years — referred to as the third category of students.

This third category consists of students who register as on-campus day students, and move to Rexburg to attend school, but cannot be found in the classrooms. Instead, they find more academic success in online courses.

In Fall 2022, over 60 percent of campus students enrolled in online courses, with 20 percent of those being fully online. The same data showed that the demand for online courses has been growing for the past eight years. The university’s data analytics team has been studying these trends, and they have found that students are choosing online learning because it better suits their lifestyle.

Eric Karl, associate online vice president, said, “We're going to continue to see this trend where online is just a more natural way for students to learn than they have in the past.”

Karl is over the university’s online education efforts. He and his team have had to adapt as the needs of online students have evolved. According to Karl, this group has been steadily growing since 2014 and has accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that BYU-Idaho is serving a new generation of students that have had online learning integrated throughout their education.

“This generation is much more open to an online education than generations of students 10 to 15 years ago,” Karl said, “It just was not natural to them. But this age group, it is much more natural to them.”

Prior to the pandemic, online students were served through one team. Since then, the university has recognized the need to direct more resources and attention to this growing group of students.

There has been a recent change where the group of people dedicated to online learning has split off. There is a team for BYU-Pathway Worldwide students, and a team for on-campus day students. The opportunities to grow the online learning experience for registered day students is unlimited.

“We have organized ourselves internally in online learning to be able to focus in on the campus students who take these online courses. We are trying to work much more deeply with the faculty across campus and enhance the learning experience for those students independent of the worldwide students,” Karl said.

This effort is concentrated with a team led by Melanie Kennelly, online curriculum and instruction director.

“The goal of our campus online team is to integrate campus online into academic departments to optimize existing courses for campus-based students,” Kennelly said.

The vision is that online classes for campus students do not need to have the same limitations as worldwide online classes.

For BYU-Pathway Worldwide students, there are several limitations that can influence how classes are taught over the internet. For example, access to affordable internet is an issue in some parts of the world, which changes what course materials and supplementary resources are accessible for students to download. Campus students taking online courses tend to have access to high-speed internet that would allow them to access more content for longer.

“We can make these online classes as interactive and as rich as we can make them, because there are no limitations on bandwidth,” Karl said.

Because these students are registered as on-campus day students, they have access to many of the same resources as traditional college students. The library, tutoring, equipment rental, and entertainment like Student Activities and Center Stage performances are all available just as they are to those who are learning in classrooms.

No matter how large this group of students grows, BYU-Idaho is dedicated to meeting its needs and helping students achieve academic success.