by Kaitlyn Hall, Copy Editor

Blended learning, a model that combines traditional, face-to-face instruction and online learning, is being incorporated into PLU classes for the first time this semester.

Frank Moore, Associate Provost of Information and Technology Services, hopes that the Pacific Lutheran University Teaching Online, or PLUTO, program will increase student retention rates and summer revenue, allowing PLU to reduce budget cuts and invest money back into its students.

This fall’s blended classes are a precursor to fully online classes, set to be offered in summer 2015. Moore recognized that students who don’t live near campus or work during the summer may not have the ability to take in-classroom classes, making online courses crucial to revitalize what Moore called a withering summer semester.

“We’re hoping next summer will be the first summer we have classes fully online,” Moore said. “The interesting thing about classes online is if we don’t do that for our students, somebody else is going to do that for our students, and that kind of defeats the purpose (of keeping classes on-campus only).”

PLU received a grant from the Benson Family Foundation to host the PLUTO Institute in June, which trained a discipline-diverse group of 10 faculty in teaching blended and online learning over four days.

Each of the 10 faculty who participated in the course is teaching a blended course he or she developed at the PLUTO institute. At the end of fall semester, students and faculty involved in the blended courses will be surveyed about their experience.

Moore said another PLUTO Institute is planned for January to prepare additional faculty to teach online courses in summer 2015.

Online classes will be completed through Sakai and will not come at an additional cost to the university, Moore said, because the infrastructure needed for online learning is already in place.

Moore emphasized that blended and online learning will not compromise relationship-building between students and faculty.

“I know that PLU prides itself on really important faculty-student interaction,” Moore said, “but you can still be high-tech with high-touch.”

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