There is a growing group of Washington State University students who rarely set foot on school property.
They may not even live near Pullman, Spokane, Vancouver or the Tri-Cities while taking classes. They are members of the university’s fifth campus -- the one that exists primarily online.
David Cillay, executive director for WSU’s Center for Distance and Professional Education, said more students should have access to online courses at WSU in the near future.
”What we’re really hoping to do is grow our online program mix,” Cillay told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. ”We’re looking at what we offer on campus and finding ways to move those online.”
The effort is not motivated by WSU’s budget, he said, though online courses could bring in more students and therefore more money. The university is simply looking to reach out to more Washington residents who may not be able to relocate to campus in order to get a degree.
”The mission of the land grant institution is to provide access to education,” Cillay said. ”Online education seems to be the 21st century rethinking of the land grant mission.”
Through online courses, students like Erica Vieira of Seattle are able to attend a trusted university without spending time away from their families. Vieira -- a 32-year-old wife and mother of three -- will earn her bachelor’s degree in human development through WSU this December, and she only has been to Pullman a few times.
That does not mean she has not felt involved in campus life. Two years into her studies, Vieira was elected vice president of the university’s online student government. Every couple of months, the group meets with leaders of WSU’s other campuses, and Vieira said e-students plan gatherings with one another as well. This month, she will join other online students at an organized gathering before a football game in Seattle.
”You never have to travel too far, if you feel you’re missing out,” Vieira said.