Iowa universities adjust to burst of interest in online learning


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Some students filing into classrooms to take final exams at the University of Iowa next week will first be asked to fork over their electronics.

A camera will snap their photo while two forms of identification are scanned into a computer. During the exam, banks of cameras on the ceiling and walls will capture their images every five seconds.

The stepped-up security is aimed at students taking online courses. It’s just one of the ways the state’s public universities are adjusting to the exploding trend of students opting to attend class in cyberspace, even when they live in dorms a short walk from the classroom.

Enrollment in online courses at Iowa’s three public universities increased 65 percent in the five years from 2005-06 to 2010-11, when students registered 42,882 times for online courses.

Several factors fuel the trend. Busy students like the convenience of online courses. Shifting introductory work online can free faculty to spend class time on tough concepts. In a time of tight budgets, offering more classes online achieves savings while maintaining academic quality, university administrators say.

Ray O’Donnell, 25, has taken onli………..

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