April 14, 2010
A new study has indicated that distance education is rapidly catching on at community colleges in particular.
The study, published by the Instructional Technology Council, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges, notes that enrollment in distance learning at community colleges increased by 22 percent over 2007-8. The year before, the growth rate was 11 percent.
Fred Lokken, associate dean for the Truckee Meadows Community College Web College in Nevada and author of the report, explained to The Chronicle of Higher Education that the dramatic growth is because community colleges have been more enthusiastic about embracing distance learning than universities. The economy has also been a major factor, because online courses are particularly appealing to job hunters.
"They now see the online classes giving them the greatest flexibility, given the crises they're facing in their lives," Lokken told the Chronicle.
Distance learning at community colleges was found to be increasing at a somewhat higher rate than at universities in general. Results of the Sloan Survey of Online Learning report released early this year, which tracked overall national campus enrollments, indicated that distance learning enrollments grew by 17 percent.
Working Waterfront reports that according to David Markow, dean of academic and student affairs at Washington County Community College in Maine, increased online courses are appealing because they drive down costs for schools and allow institutions to more readily respond to demand. For example, a college can provide an online training course one year and eliminate it the year after at minimal cost.
"Doing this kind of distance education allows us to quickly meet the needs of our community," said Markow, who was quoted in Working Waterfront.
Other community colleges are clearly seeing the value of distance education. The Watertown Daily Times in New York reports that Jefferson Community College has received three grants totaling over $400,000 which will be used to purchase laptops, distance-learning equipment and smart classrooms for the school's Higher Education Center.
"We want the center to be the face of a four-year degree in Jefferson and Lewis counties," explained Jill M. Bettinger, JCC's dean for continuing education, who was quoted in the Daily Times.
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"Distance Education's Rate of Growth Doubles at Community College," The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 13, 2010, Mary Helen Miller
"Distance Learning Brings Economic Promise to Washington County," Working Waterfront, March 23, 2010, Craig Idlebrook
"JCC Receives Grants for Technology to Equip Higher Education Center," Watertown Daily Times, April 4, 2010, Jamie Munks
"Trends in Learning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges," Instructional Technology Council, March 2010