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Distance Education - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the BCF Online Campus?

The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) Online Campus is distance-independent--students can engage in learning activities from anyplace where the Internet is available. The Online Campus functions much like the traditional campus. Its purpose is to deliver courses and programs and link faculty and students via the Internet.

Courses are scheduled with beginning and end dates, just like on-campus semesters. There are assigned due dates for all classroom activities including coursework, assigned readings, and online discussions. The BCF online campus is not correspondence-course delivery and is not self-paced.

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How does online study work?

You participate in online courses on a regular basis--just as if you were in a traditional classroom. Online study includes on-going participation, discussion, submission of various assignments and involvement in other activities. You will receive a syllabus (course schedule) explaining what is required, when it is required, and the level of participation or competency expected.

Participation in the online campus requires you to apply to become a BCF student. Upon acceptance, you may enroll in online campus courses, receive a password and login instructions. At that time you will be assigned passwords and login instructions. Then, you must complete a brief technical orientation course (IT 310) to help you use the Campus Web Learning Management System (LMS). You should enroll in IT 310N (1-hour, 3-week course) during your first term of study.

Online students may order their textbooks for each course through ecampus.

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What is the MyBCF Learning Management System (LMS)?

The LMS system allows you to study online with most of the capabilities of our traditional classrooms. From syllabus to exams, everything required to complete a course is included. “Asynchronous” discussion allows you to participate in the forums at any time of day or night. Research papers can be uploaded and grading is done through the LMS or via email attachments.

BCF offers a fully integrated educational system for online students. This system includes online admissions process, online registration, online records reviews, and the online Learning Management System.

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What are the minimal system requirements?

Windows Hardware:

Windows 2000 or XP
900 MHz Intel or AMD Processor minimum
128 MB of RAM or more (512 preferred)
56 kbps modem or faster
Sound card
Speakers

Mac Hardware:

Mac Os X 10.1 or Later
Power PC Processor (G3 PowerPC minimum)
128 MB of RAM or more (512 preferred)
56 kbps modem or faster
Sound card
Speakers

Software:

Internet Explorer 5.51* or later, Netscape 6.0 or later, or Firefox 1.0 or later.
*For Chat function Internet Explorer 5.51 or later required.

Microsoft Office is highly recommended; however, Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint readers are available through the LMS courseware.

Internet Connectivity:

Even if you fulfill the hardware and software requirements listed above, your connection rate to the Internet (through your Internet provider) will determine how quickly you can access your course materials, especially audio and video.

Email Accounts:

BCF provides personal email accounts. You will be able to access your email through the Campus Web from any Internet connection.

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What computer skills should I have?

Before enrolling in an online course you should feel comfortable operating your computer. If any of the following issues seem unfamiliar, or you believe you would struggle with your skills in any of the following areas, you should brush up on these skills before your course begins. If you have questions about any of the areas, contact the BCF Administrative Assistant for Distance Education, Suzanne Hudson, snhudson@baptistcollege.edu, (800) 328-2660 ext. 540.

Computer
  • Know your computer type, size, memory, and software programs.
  • Know how to organize files on your computer.
  • Purchase any necessary software that will help you organize your studies; word processing, operating systems, Internet browsers, etc.
  • Download any necessary (FREE) software- Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word viewer, etc.
  • Upload and download assignments to and from the LMS courseware.
Word Processing
  • Cut, copy, and paste, etc.
  • Use basic word processing programs.
  • Save and move documents and files.
  • Save files in different file formats (.doc, .wpf, .rtf).
Email
  • Send and receive messages.
  • Send email attachments.
  • Open email attachments.
  • Organize email files and messages.
Internet
  • Navigate with your browser: back, forward, links, scroll bars, refresh, bookmarks.
  • Locate URLs (Internet addresses).
  • Search for information with Internet search engines such as Yahoo, Google, etc.
  • Download Internet files, information, and store them on your computer.

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What type of study resources will I need?

Study resources common to any classroom experience. You will be asked to read textbooks and other printed materials; research Internet sites, read external documents located in the LMS, use CD Rom-based text and materials, respond to e-mail information, and engage in asynchronous discussions with both professor and fellow students. Occasionally, you may be required to borrow books from a local library or through library loan services.

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What are the personal study expectations?

While distance education delivery has been validated in numerous studies as having the same learning integrity as studies in a traditional classroom, these studies also warn that distance education is not for every student. In both online and traditional delivery systems, serious commitment of time and effort must be made. A major difference for online campus programs: students must have self-directed discipline and skills--self-direct reading and study times, online time, and meet all deadlines for assignments.

Before attempting Internet courses, ask yourself:

  1. Am I naturally organized in my normal life activities?
  2. Do I manage my time efficiently without significant outside motivation?
  3. Do I make use of a calendar or other scheduling prompter?
  4. Am I a naturally curious person?
  5. Do I enjoy learning outside of the classroom setting?
  6. How many self-directed learning projects have I successfully completed in the last year?

If you can answer the majority of these questions positively, and if you are moderately proficient in the computer skills listed above, you are a good candidate for a distance learning experience.

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Can I participate 24 hours each day?

Yes, by using "asynchronous communications." This means what you do is neither time nor place dependent. You can read lectures, participate in discussion and possibly complete exams at any time during the dates that part of the course is open. Many of the assignments and exercises required in online courses will still be completed off-line using word processing software. This system is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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How does "asynchronous communication" work?

Asynchronous communication simply means you are participating in a “threaded discussion” similar to a bulletin board system on Internet sites. The professor asks a question using the “forums” function in the courseware. You read the question (and any contributions made by class members), consider from your study materials and other resources how you can answer in a manner that adds to the discussion, and then make your contribution.

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Does a lack of "face to face" communication degrade the learning experience?

It depends on the student’s ability to be self-directed (see Personal Study Expectations above). For some, this is a problem and for others, it is a positive experience. Asynchronous communications permits one to read the question or comment, think about the meaning intended, research and formulate your answer, then respond with a carefully thought-out answer.

Some object that, “I can’t tell what is being meant unless I can read the ‘body language’.” Think about that for a minute. Is body language really that accurate? Can I not “act out” my body language in order to send a message different than what I intend? Certainly I can. Actors do it all the time. Body language, when honest, can be interpreted. But, just like words, it can also be biased. In the online classroom, we are dealing with learning from content and experience, not interpreting shades of intentions. Therefore, body language is not really that important.

Asynchronous communication can provide a thoughtful and convenient forum for excellent learning opportunities.

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What does a typical online class look like?

All online courses are broken down into units of study spread over fifteen weeks (ten weeks for summer terms). Usually two weeks or so prior to the class start, students are given access to the course schedule (syllabus) and can begin to organize readings, papers, and other assignments.

Class Discussions

After the class begins, the instructor will post discussion questions designed to stimulate research and thoughtful dialogue about the issue at hand. Every student is expected to follow the discussion and contribute at least three times per week as long as the course is in session.

Due Dates

Due dates for papers and other assignments are posted in the “syllabus” folder and in the “coursework” file. Each student is responsible for meeting any deadlines attendant to these assignments.

Exams

“Online” and “offline” exams are given at the discretion of the instructor. An “online” exam is completed using only your computer connected via Internet to the course software. “Offline” exams may use an approved proctor, may be an essay exam sent to the instructor by e-mail attachment, or may take any of several other forms available to the instructor.

All assignments and exams are completed by the due dates listed in the syllabus or arranged with the instructor.

Class resources will consist normally of textbooks, online papers and lectures, CD ROMs, online web sites such as libraries, journals, and periodicals.

Successful Completion

For online courses offered by BCF, every student is expected to:

  1. Complete all assigned readings whether from textbooks, Internet sites, linked external pages, or another source as assigned by the professor.
  2. Complete all written assignments and post them in the proper place in the courseware, deliver them to the professor as e-mail attachments, or mail hardcopy in sufficient time for grading.
  3. Engage in regular class discussions with the professor and other class members via asynchronous communications in the courseware.
  4. Successfully complete all examinations.

Courses offered via Internet are designed to incorporate the same level of content and difficulty as courses that are offered in the classroom at The Baptist College of Florida.

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Is private communication with my professor possible?

Yes. The LMS courseware includes a free e-mail service for every student. You may email your classmates or the professor at any time. In addition, every professor is available for telephone conversations.

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Suppose, I don't want to participate in on-line discussions?

Then you need to consider whether online learning is for you. Actually, many of the BCF students who have reported shyness toward participating in traditional classroom discussion have found online discussions to be considerably easier. The privacy of thinking about the questions or issues and then forming a thoughtful answer seems to eliminate much of the reluctance to become involved in a time-bound group discussion.

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Do I need access to a library?

Most of the study materials will be available through textbook and CD Rom purchases. Online materials will be available for additional research. The BCF Library provides distance students with a generous policy for students to access the campus library. Click on link to read instructions for borrowing materials. (Library Policies) There may be times, however, when a personal library or other resources such as a local library will be needed.

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Do you offer classes at off-site learning centers?

Through cooperation with the Florida Baptist Convention and other resources across Florida, we are pleased to offer "distance site" learning centers (in addition to the online and Graceville campus). To accelerate your degree completion schedule, studies may be combined using the online campus, distance-site learning centers, or even short summer terms on our main, Graceville campus. For more information click here.

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For Distance Site Information Contact:

Robin Jumper
Academic Dean
(800) 328-2660 ext. 425
grjumper@baptistcollge.edu