Wayland to offer academic help to displaced students

PLAINVIEW – In an effort to aid college students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Wayland Baptist University is taking part in a special program through which students enrolled at affected colleges and universities may take online courses free of charge.

The Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, Ga., has fielded numerous requests from students about taking online courses this semester. As a result, the SREB contacted the Sloan Consortium and the groups set up what is being called the Sloan Semester. The Sloan Consortium is part of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which is a group of institutions interested in furthering online education.

Through the program, schools affiliated with the SREB, such as Wayland, will offer a maximum of 10 courses with no charges for tuition and no fees. The only cost to the student is for textbooks. The Sloan Consortium will provide $2,500 per course to pay accredited institutions for teaching the courses online. As of Friday afternoon, more than 100 institutions of higher learning had volunteered to offer courses.

“It is clearly part of our mission as an institution to respond to human need, and this is a need we can address,” said Academic Vice President Dr. Bobby Hall. “I’m thankful we have to capabilities to address this need.”

Wayland’s decision to join the Sloan Semester project came about Thursday afternoon after Dr. David Howle, director of Wayland’s virtual campus, heard that the SREB was looking for member schools to participate.

“It’s moved kind of quickly,” Howle said. “We are offering 10 courses. The classes correspond directly to the requests of students.”

Wayland will offer courses in management, economics, psychology, history, religion and business ethics. Howle and Hall were pleased with how quickly Wayland’s professors responded when asked to teach these courses in addition to their normal work load.

“Wayland cares about this situation from an academic standpoint and we are doing what we can do,” Hall said. “As far as the professors are concerned, we can’t just pack up in the middle of a semester and go there to help out. Across the board, those of us who looked at this felt that this was a good way to respond.”

The Sloan Semester will begin registering students on Sept. 19. Courses will begin Oct. 10 and must be completed by Jan. 6. The SREB is recommending eight-week terms. Howle, however, has suggested a nine-week term for the Wayland classes, taking into consideration a week off for Thanksgiving. With classes starting Oct. 10, that will leave plenty of time for Wayland professors to wrap up the extra terms by the end of the regular semester. Also, Howle has suggested that professors use online materials when available to teach their courses in an effort to keep students’ cost for materials at a minimum.

Right now, the SREB is looking at providing only one term, but Howle said if the need persists, a second Sloan Semester will be considered.