When online education began at Florida International University 15 years ago, there were 10 faculty members, about 10 courses offered and less than 300 students enrolled.
Over the years, the demand for online education grew — causing the school to increase the staff and the offerings for various majors, including business, nursing and journalism.
But while the class list grew, the space to develop the courses and make sure they run properly didn’t. Technical staff was scattered in different buildings and the call center was based in rented space.
“My vision was to someday, somehow, pull all of FIU online together,” said Joyce Elam, dean of FIU University College.
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Her vision came to fruition when the school opened the Management and New Growth Opportunities (MANGO) building in November with two floors dedicated to online education. The $35million building, which also houses the school of accounting, the department of management and international business and the college of business academic advising office, was officially dedicated Tuesday.
“What a contrast between where we were and where we are today,” FIU President Mark Rosenberg said before cutting the blue and yellow ribbon.
The nearly 110,000 square-foot six-story building on FIU's main West Miami-Dade campus has more than 12,000 square feet of potential study space, over 7,000 square feet of classroom and labs, and more than 340 office spaces. It also has an atrium and restaurants on the first floor to give students a place to relax and grab a bite to eat between classes.
“Opportunity is what FIU is all about,” Rosenberg said. He said the new building is part of the school’s continued effort to be a “beacon” for the community. With more than 50,000 students enrolled, Rosenberg said the school continues to find ways to grow “even through a recession.”
“It shows this school is unstoppable,” he said.
The floors dedicated to online education include open space for the department’s 150 employees to “develop, design and support” online education, Elam said. Employees man phones in the call center to answer questions from students, and designers sit in cubicles to develop new ways to present information online.
Construction on the new building began about two years ago, said Dean of Business David Klock. Klock said MANGO means more space for collaboration between students and faculty, more opportunity for growth and expansion and more room for classes. The business school alone has about 8,000 students.
For international business student Patrick Hansen, 22, the new classroom was a welcome sight.
“The old classes reminded you of a rundown high school building,” he said. He said the new room offers multiple projectors, a speaker system and clean desks. He also said he liked the “openness of the new building.”
Student Gedma Estrada agreed, saying the new building was “light and bright,” from all the windows. Estrada, a marketing major, said she was impressed with the new digs and happy to see that online has a presence.
Estrada, who is taking a few online classes to help balance her work schedule, said she never realized there was such a large technical staff for online courses.
“It’s nice to see that they have their own space,” she said. “Online courses are really popular.”