Joplin, MO (SNS) – The number of academic courses offered online at Missouri Southern State University is on the rise, the university’s Board of Governors learned during a presentation on Friday, Jan. 16.

The numbers reflect the university’s ongoing commitment to providing options for students seeking to further their education, as well as the importance of ensuring those options are not limited by location or time.

Scott Snell, director of the Distance Learning program, offered board members an overview of Blackboard – an education technology service used on campus since 1988 – and discussed new features that have been implemented and the latest data available.

There are currently 385 online courses offered through Missouri Southern, generating 14,272 credit hours, said Snell. There are 2,344 students taking one or more online classes, and 768 of those students taking only online classes.

“Fifty-one of those have never taken an on-ground class at Missouri Southern,” he said. “They are purely online.”

The number of online students saw its largest growth in the 2009-10 academic year – with 2,361 students – and leveled off the following year, but Snell said the number is trending upward again.

“We’ve been trending back since the fall of 2011,” he said. “The institution has invested in this department. We’ve added instructional designers and added an academic advising team. There’s a whole office dedicated to the academic advising of our online students.”

Snell also discussed new features for Blackboard, such as a goals and objectives function that allows administrators to build goal sets into the system and run reports to measure student performance. Criteria can be input into the new retention center dashboard to track students’ grade performance, how much time they’re spending in class or how often they’re logging in.

The calendar function has been improved, as well. Rather than individual calendars for each course, students can track due dates, instructor notes and academic notices through a single log, he said.

The Board of Governors will meet again at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, in the Billingsly Student Center Boardroom.