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UNF Spinnaker

OPINION: UNF needs more in-person classes

Updated Dec. 7, 2023: Spinnaker originally published that the distance learning fee would be $120 for a 3-credit course when it is actually $90. Spinnaker originally published, “Online classes mostly become a problem when the university doesn’t offer equivalent in-person options,” but that is misleading. Spinnaker apologizes for the errors.

This article expresses the views of its author(s), separate from those of this publication. Readers are encouraged to comment or submit a Letter to the Editor to share their opinions. To submit a Letter to the Editor, follow the instructions here.

There are many integral parts of a college degree that are far more than just earning a degree itself. The underlying factors contribute almost equal weight to your name on a diploma. 

Students finding, taking and excelling in extra opportunities are critical to a graduate’s success shortly after walking the stage. Incorporated in these opportunities is the ability to connect with industry professionals and enjoy an on-campus college experience.

To help students fully take advantage of this, UNF should provide students with more in-person class options and restructure distance fees. Online classes don’t provide the best setting to fulfill either expectation from college students. In most circumstances, students are also required to pay extra for a less-than-optimal experience.  

Taking a few online classes would be easier to accept, except for the fee associated with them. UNF charges students a distance learning fee of $30 per credit hour. If no in-person options are given to students, a distance learning fee should not be forced on them. 

On its own, $30 seems small. But, per one standard 3-credit hour class, that’s an extra $90 added to your bill. In most cases, distance learning fees are pointless and raise serious questions about their true purpose. Two of the 10 reasons UNF lists for having a distance learning fee are specialized technology and licensing of instructional content.

I’ve taken over eight online courses at UNF, and I’ve almost never had access to specialized technology outside of Canvas. Canvas is a part of every course at UNF and shouldn’t warrant a separate fee for an online class. With one exception, I don’t recall having access to any specialized instructional content such as programs or applications in my online courses either.

(Lauren Mancke/Unsplash)

With that said, online classes do have their benefits. Sometimes, online courses can help students manage their schedules more easily during heavily loaded semesters. One of the most significant benefits of online classes is being able to graduate on time. 

As a graduation requirement at UNF, students need to take three courses during the summer before they are eligible to receive their diploma. Without online courses being offered in the summer, this would place a tremendous burden on students who want to return home for the summer term. They would be forced to stay in Jacksonville all year round or graduate behind schedule.

UNF told Spinnaker that as of Nov. 28, UNF will offer 1,466 courses in-person in the spring 2024 semester, other than individualized courses. That number is high, but so is the amount of online and hybrid courses. Next semester, the university initially said they would offer 119 hybrid courses and 760 online courses, totaling 879 classes not offered fully in person, as of Nov. 28. These numbers have since changed and will continue to be in flux as students register for and drop classes.

Online classes can still facilitate great academic relationships between professors and students, but when students come to campus, they expect to be active on campus. Online courses that seem unnecessarily costly have encroached on in-person classes in many sections and limited the college experience for students in those situations. Solving this problem will likely not be a rapid one-semester change, but in the coming semesters, I hope to see the distance fees reassessed and more in-person classes offered.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Jace Brown
Jace Brown, Opinions Reporter
Jace Brown is an opinions reporter for Spinnaker.

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    David D JaffeeDec 11, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for the opinion post. Speaking as a faculty member in sociology I can tell you that the online courses fill almost always to capacity while the on-campus courses have much lower enrollments (even sometimes cancelled).