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Political science dept. decides to keep it simple, stay offline

The UF Department of Political Science has elected not to create a political science major on UF Online.

“There were some concerns raised whether it’s possible to match the quality of the major program from an online perspective,” said Ido Oren, political science department chair.

Oren said the faculty was given a choice. There was an informed discussion and a fact-finding process, where they looked at online degree programs from other universities.

UF Online gave a presentation in addition to two faculty members: one for creating an online major and one against it, said political science professor Richard Nolan.

“There was no widespread enthusiasm among the faculty,” Oren said. “But the vote was not unanimous.”

There are several political science classes offered online regularly that are available to students registered in UF Online or students looking to take the classes to complete a different major.

“As members of the faculty, we were given a choice,” Oren said. “That may change in the future.”

About 800 undergraduate political science majors are studying at UF, according to the department website.

UF senior Meredith Ryan said political science is a great major that challenges and encourages its students to think critically through in-class discussions, and she would have felt cheated if it was offered online.

“You can’t get the interaction and the discussion necessary to really break down concepts and apply them to real world situations,” Ryan, 20, said. “Professors want to hear what’s going on in our minds and challenge us. You can’t get that experience online.”

Arizona State University is one university already offering its students an online degree in political science.

“Sitting behind a computer screen would prevent students from gaining real live discussions with the amazing faculty we have in the department,” she said. “It’s not like a math class where there’s one way to solve a problem. Many of the political science courses here ask more of students than to just fill in a blank and hit submit.” 

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[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 11/6/2014]

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