Online learning, sometimes called distance learning or e-learning, is all about flexibility for the time-challenged student. As a state-of-the-art Web site, Online DCTC is all about providing the easiest, smoothest and most efficient means to access coursework and resources for online enhanced, hybrid online and flextime/online courses as well as online certificate and degree programs at Dakota County Technical College.
Linda Foster, the college’s director of instructional technology, defines Online DCTCas a portal to a full range of electronic resources that support the online learning experience. Through Online DCTC, students access Desire2Learn, the Web-based course management system better known as D2L. They can also log into their MetNet e-mail accounts, or e-Services to check grades or financial aid status, pay tuition or register for courses.
“We’ve made Online DCTC a one-stop shop for students,” Foster said. “You can order books and other course materials online at the DCTC Bookstore and have them shipped to your home or delivered to the college’s Apple Valley site. You can accessSMARTHINKING, a free online tutoring service available to both online and on-campus students. You can also find great student discounts on Dell and Apple computers, and Microsoft and Adobe software.”
Foster went on to say that students who do well with online coursework are disciplined and self-motivated. “A lot of our students are adults with full-time jobs and families to raise,” she said. “They are looking for professional development, or that degree or certificate that will allow them to move up in the workplace. They need the ability take classes anytime, anywhere.”
Many young, computer-savvy students also prefer online courses because they fit seamlessly into their busy lifestyles. They discover that the online learning experience is in-depth and highly rewarding with discussion sessions that are often more compelling and inclusive than in the on-campus classroom.
Julia Glenn, an instructional technology assistant at the college, handles the day-to-day operations of Online DCTC. Working from her desk in the Instructional Technology Center, or ITC, she helps students navigate D2L and develop their computer skills. She also helps faculty set up fully online courses and online enhanced courses, that latter employing classroom time plus the online component as a tool for students to check grades, upload assignments and take quizzes.
Although she loves working with faculty designing and delivering brand-new online classes, Glenn believes that the best part of her job is helping students find their footing in the online world. “We have a tutorial session for students taking online courses at the start of each semester,” she said, “and a lot of students come back to me later to ask questions. I love it when I see that it clicks and they are starting to understand things.”
One area with a particularly bright future for online learning is the hybrid option—and a first-rate example of that is the college’s Medical Assistant program. The hybrid option allows students to attend lectures and prepare for laboratory work online. Weekly labs are completed on campus on Tuesday afternoons.
“The Medical Assistant online hybrid program is a new adventure for us,” said Patrice Nadeau, the director of the program as well as an instructor. “We launched it spring semester 2009 and our students love it. We make everything online interactive. The opportunity to attend class on campus only once a week really works for working students or students with small children.”
A single mom with two children and a full-time job, Jessica Naumann believes that the online option is a perfect match for her and her fellow students. “The flexibility is so important,” she said. “I can take the lectures and do worksheets anytime I want. My instructors provide tremendous support, and the blend of online coursework and hands-on lab time works extremely well.”
Another important component in the online learning experience, Flextime/Online Courses deliver online coursework with lab support, no classroom attendance and adaptable due dates for assignments, creating greater flexibility and more study opportunities for busy students. Self-paced coursework allows students to complete more than one credit-based Flextime/Online course per semester.
Visit Online DCTC for more info on what courses as well as what certificate and degree programs are available online. You can also contact Linda Foster or Julia Glenn if you have any questions about online learning.
To learn more about Flextime/Online Courses, including online enhanced computer & office skills courses, contact Kathy Niebur, the college’s flextime lab instructor.