DeVry sold the land in West Hills for $36 million in September to the real estate investment firm Multi-Employer Property Trust, according to MEPT’s Web site. Now DeVry leases 35,000 square feet at the mall, and has as neighbors The Cheesecake Factory, Pacific Theaters Galleria 16, and DSW. The school charges between $250 and $280 per credit and has three semesters spread throughout the calendar year. Its online classes allow students to read lectures and complete assignments at any time. Like the changing student population at DeVry, schools nationwide are enrolling more students in distance learning classes. Four years ago there were 1.5 million students on-line, according the Sloan Consortium, an organization committed to quality online education based at Babson College in Massachusetts. Now there are almost 3.5 million students online out of 17 million higher education students. WEST HILLS – Enrollment is strong at the DeVry University campus here, but many of its classrooms are only partly full. Over the past few years, the student population has shifted from on campus to online, diminishing the need for classroom space. In response, DeVry is leaving its 108,000-square-foot campus in West Hills next month for a smaller space in the Sherman Oaks Galleria mall. “The physical presence of students on site has shrunk,” said Iraj Borbor, who has been dean of the West Hills campus since it opened in 1999. “We found that we were not really utilizing our space efficiently.” In 2002, one in 12 students took classes online across the 84 DeVry campuses nationwide, according to the school. Now, four out of five do at DeVry, a public for-profit university based in Illinois. “We don’t see it plateauing any time soon,” said Elaine Allen, a statistics professor and researcher at the Consortium. “All we see is the trajectory going up in double digits.” About half of all public institutions offer some form of online education. Internet classes have helped the University of Phoenix become the largest institution of higher learning in the country with campuses far from its namesake. Some schools, like Capella University, do not offer any courses on campus. In the Valley, Pierce College, Los Angeles Mission College and California State University, Northridge all offer online classes. “We hear from our mid-career professionals that this is the way they want to learn,” said Marcella Tyler, spokeswoman at the Tseng College of Extended Learning at CSUN. As on-line schooling grows, concerns over the level of academic integrity persist. At the Web site elearners.com, a clearinghouse for information about online education, chat room posts address cheating. “Personally, I can see how someone with enough money and not enough time might be tempted to fall into such a trap and offer to pay another individual to take the classes for them,” writes a user called Steve. Another post, from a user called Trchaj, said he thought “online schools have the same issues as traditional schools.” Michael Heberling, president of the Center for Graduate Studies at Baker College in Michigan, would agree. Heberling researched the issue for his paper, “Maintaining Academic Integrity in Online Education,” which was published in the spring 2002 edition of the Online Journal of Distance Learning. “Sure it’s easier to cheat online, but it’s also much easier to detect than in a traditional class,” Heberling said. Teachers are more familiar with students’ writing style because pupils submit written questions and comments, instead of asking them aloud. This familiarity makes it easier for instructors to recognize fraudulent work, he said. Having electronic copies of papers also makes it easier for teachers to compare large sections of text to essays purchased online. Web sites like turnitin.com and plagiserve.com allow teachers to “search in reverse.” Tina Peters, who teaches an on-line class at DeVry and researches user experiences for the school, attacked another myth about distance learning. “I think the conception with taking a class online is that’s is easy,” she said. “But a lot of students are surprised by the rigor.” firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 713-3735 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!