The students bundled up in warm clothing and skidded over icy roads Thursday for the first night of English 101 at Spokane Falls Community College.
For most future classes, they won’t have to.
They won’t need to leave their homes. They’ll log on to a computer instead.
“The roads are just - eeesh, I don’t know - treacherous,” said Neil Bretting, an 18-year-old computer science major.
“I’d rather not have to do that.”
He won’t, except for two other face-to-face meetings this semester.
For the first time in Spokane, community college students can take a full-credit course via the Internet.
The “classroom” is a web of electronic-mail and computer links.
The beginning composition class represents a powerful trend in college education today - marrying convenience for students with technology.
It saves paper, improves flexibility and means students can never claim they lost their homework assignments, officials say.
Regional schools are about to follow suit.
Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore., expects its first class of on-line students to graduate in spring.
At Washington State University in Pullman, one instructor is teaching a French class entirely on the Internet, with no face-to-face meetings planned. World civilization classes combine actual classes with resources on the World Wide Web and e-mail.
“Very quickly now, I think it’s going to catch on,” said Paul Brians, a WSU English professor who uses the World Wide Web and e-mail for world civilization, humanities and science fiction classes.
Spokane Falls Community College’s English 101 on-line class was sparked by instructor Bradley Bleck, who planned to teach the class but later accepted a teaching job in Las Vegas.
“I was afraid that the class wouldn’t fill up, that six students would show up, that I would look like a fool,” Bleck said.
Instead, 28 students enrolled, with more on a waiting list. Jan Strever is now teaching the class.
“Even though we won’t see each other a lot, we’ll get to know each other,” Strever told her students Thursday night.
“You’ll get to know my writing style. And believe me, I’ll get to know yours.”
During that first class Thursday night, students didn’t know what to expect. Things didn’t work quite right.
Strever told students they might not like her, and she didn’t care. She just wanted them to become better writers.
But the computers in the classroom weren’t cooperating, and some students were confused by the alphabet soup of cyberspace. UNIX? WWW? E-mail?
“Why are we doing this?” the teacher asked her frustrated students.
“To make us miserable,” a student fired back.
Glitches aside, most students were excited about tackling writing assignments at their own pace, using computers to “talk” to classmates, and avoiding the trek to campus.
“It’s a lot easier to get stuff done at home,” said Cody Small, a 31-year-old married mother of two.
“I didn’t want to spend all my nights and afternoons at school.”
Bretting would rather take all his classes on-line.
“I like it a lot better,” he said.
“See, I can do it when I want. And I don’t have to be in class at a certain time.”
, DataTimes MEMO: Staff writer Kim Barker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org