Joshua Belanger (CLAS 2018) embodies why alternative pathways to education, such as UF Online, are crucial to higher education — especially so today.
While working at a somewhat dangerous supervisor’s job at the port of Tampa, Joshua decided to seek a bachelor’s degree in Geology from UF. His work schedule consisted of rotating 12-hour shifts, so traditional classes were out of the question. UF Online offered Joshua the possibility of keeping his job while at the same time carrying a full-time class load.
When it came to fulfilling the CLAS foreign language requirement, Joshua was initially apprehensive about trying to learn a language online. However, through the integration of synchronous virtual language coaching sessions and the use of small learning communities that connect students asynchronously via VoiceThread, Joshua had the opportunity to establish a personalized relationship with a native speaker in Ecuador (Coach Maria Centeno) and to build a supportive community with his peer group. After successfully completing the first course in the two-semester sequence, Joshua and his peers Dain and Sydney intentionally scheduled their coaching sessions together so that they could maintain their bond among themselves and with Coach Maria.
The experience of learning about his Coach Maria’s home country of Ecuador piqued Joshua’s interest enough for him to book a two-week trip through this small but geologically diverse country: the rainforests of the Upper Amazon Basin, the high-altitude capital city of Quito, and the Galapagos Islands archipelago. Joshua was able not only to practice his newly acquired Spanish skills, but also to meet in person Coach Maria.
After graduating Cum Laude with a degree in Geology, Joshua was hired by a geotechnical company in Tampa, and then moved to Colorado to apply his geotechnical experience as a staff geologist in an environmental firm where he helps to ensure clean air and water for the people of the Colorado front range. Joshua writes: “A few years ago, I questioned whether an online education was worth the trouble. Without a doubt, it was the best decision of my life. I am able not only to live wherever I want, but also to leave my mark and better this world.” Along the way, the online Spanish program played a large role in his non-traditional journey.
In summary, Dr. Marull says, “Our online students are truly extraordinary. Incredibly diverse and interesting, and they inspire me to develop the highest quality program possible so that I can help them achieve their goals.”
UF Online currently serves over 4,000 undergraduate students in more than 25 majors that include over 25 pathways to a degree. It is currently ranked 4th among Online Bachelor programs.
Beginning Spanish I and II online courses serve 160 students each semester, with both traditional and non-traditional students enrolled. These courses were developed to engage students with experiential learning opportunities that bridge online learning with real-world applications. For more information about UF Online, visit https://ufonline.ufl.edu/.