University of Phoenix opens Downtown classrooms

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March 29, 2010 // UPDATED 8:53 am - March 29, 2010
By: Kathryn Holahan
Kathryn Holahan
The primarily online University of Phoenix is leasing a room on the fifth floor of the 701 Building Downtown at 701 4th Ave. S. and will be offering campus classes starting March 30.

Inside the classroom, called the Downtown Learning Center, tables and 14 chairs form a U-shape facing a podium and whiteboard and tech support has been working out the details to ensure things run smoothly when classes begin at the end of the month. In addition to the classroom, the University is able to use the conference room behind the fifth-floor reception desk.

Campus classes cover the same material as online, so students enrolled in either type of class will utilize the same materials and receive the same assignments. The typical student at the University of Phoenix is in their 30s, a full-time employee, has kids, is busy, but looking to grow, said Doris Savron, vice president of the Minnesota campuses for the University of Phoenix.

“They’re not your traditional, right-out-of-high-school students,” she said. That is part of what makes the University of Phoenix unique, and why there is a demand for courses at the school’s nearby Woodbury and St. Louis Park classrooms. Students who can manage to attend campus classes benefit from having face-to-face interactions.

Enrollment is the same for online or campus classes, Savron said. Students enroll in one course at a time. For undergraduates, the courses are typically five weeks long; graduate student courses run a bit longer, averaging six weeks. Classes are four hours a night from 6–10 p.m. There will be as many as eight classes held in the Downtown Learning Center.

Because there are currently only two spaces for classes to be held, the student resource center is small compared to the Woodbury and St. Louis Park campuses, Savron said. She added that there is the possibility of expanding if the Downtown location is successful.

The student resource center, also located on the fifth floor of the 701 Building, consists of computer workstations, faculty and staff members and tech support available to assist students. The student resource center is a place for students to do homework, meet with faculty and advisors as well as have access to tutors. There are a dozen employees and four or five are on-site at any given time.

A few other locations were considered for classrooms, but the easy access, parking and space were important for the new location.

“The data says we need to be here,” Savron said. “I anticipate we’ll be getting larger.”

Sean Larson will be teaching one of the first courses offered at the Downtown Learning Center. He teaches statistics, project management, strategic planning and resource optimization at the Woodbury and Saint Louis Park campuses in what is called the FlexNet program.

FlexNet is a program that allows students to have an initial meeting in class, continue with the course in an online format, then finish the course with a final meeting in a classroom setting. Larson will be teaching back-to-back statistics classes beginning at the end of March. The benefit of classroom settings is the face-to-face engagement, which allows teachers to determine if the students have truly grasped the concepts in the class, he said.

Larson foresees the Downtown location being successful in large part because of its convenience. There are a significant number of people involved in the restaurant business who can now utilize campus classes close to their workplace, he said.

There are some kinks in the program that will need to be worked out, however, Larson said. One problem is that the skyways to parking ramps close the same time class is over. To work around that, students will have to be let out of class early, he said.

Regardless of the location or occupation of students, offering campus classes in addition to online formats is a selling point for the university. Katie Malburg, a student in the bachelors of science in nursing FlexNet program, said she chose the University of Phoenix because of the structure of the program.

“Classes are geared toward a working adult with a family,” Malburg said. Though she is not a working parent, the appeal of classes formatted to fit around hectic work schedules such as her own was a selling point, she said. “That, and the University actually showed they cared by following up, offering tours, calling me.”

The FlexNet program works well because it appeals to different types of learning, Malburg said. For visual, hands-on type learners, the first day of class, during which students meet in a classroom setting, is beneficial. The flexibility online classes offer is appealing as well, she said. Malburg does not intend to take classes at the Downtown Learning Center because she lives and works too far away for that campus location to be convenient, but she said she is grateful for campus opportunities the University of Phoenix offers through its FlexNet program.

For more information about the University of Phoenix’s campus classes, visit phoenix.edu.