Online courses solve time and distance problems for busy students
by Carie Statz, DCTC Marketing & Sales Instructor
If someone told me 10 years ago I would hold a position teaching online courses, I would have laughed wondering if e-learning was even a possibility. Fast-forward 10 years and I am teaching most of my classes online. In fact, most students in Dakota County Technical College’s Marketing and Sales program are taking their courses online versus in the classroom.
Growth in online college education continues to be the trend. According to U.S. & World Report, e-learning is increasing rapidly. In the 2008–2009 school year, more than 4.6 million college students were taking at least one online course, a 17 percent increase from 2007.
“Nearly 20 percent of all DCTC courses are delivered through e-learning,” said Kelly Murtaugh, DCTC vice president of academic and student affairs. “We are seeing growth in e-learning for many reasons, including the ability of students with even basic technology skills to navigate an organized online course.”
Why such as rapid growth? Most online students I talk with indicate they wouldn’t be able to attend college in the regular classroom. Reasons vary as much as the backgrounds of the people in the courses:
- Young children at home
- Variable work schedule
- Extensive travel for work
- Medical condition or disability limiting physical mobility
- Lack of transportation
- Residence far from the college
- Uncertainty about getting a job while attending school
I’ve personally had students who took online courses while working in Alaska and Florida, or working out of the country, including active military duty in Iraq.
However, are online students getting as much out of their college experience as those coming to campus for classes? According to The Sloan Consortium, an institutional and professional leadership organization committed to quality online education, that seems to be the case—academic leaders indicate that students generally appear as satisfied with their online experiences as they are with traditional classroom courses.
E-learning students ultimately look for college courses that provide control over their education through a more self-paced environment. Online courses offer a convenient learning process that readily meshes with a student’s individual schedule while presenting various modes of connection with faculty as well as with students from all walks of life.
“Nearly 20 percent of all DCTC courses are delivered through e-learning. We are seeing growth in e-learning for many reasons, including the ability of students with even basic technology skills to navigate an organized online course.” —Kelly Murtaugh, DCTC vice president of academic and student affairs
College administrations have learned it is imperative to assign the right faculty members to online courses. E-learning faculty need to be properly trained to work with students online and understand the importance of how to deliver content while providing the flexibility e-learning requires. In addition, students often expect technology to provide accessibility to their teachers. E-mails, webcasting, phone calls and text messages from students seven days a week become the norm for online faculty.
All the same, college faculty and staff have learned not all students are successful in an e-learning environment.
“Although students enjoy the flexibility online courses provide, the flexibility also needs to be tied to the responsibility to complete the course,” explained Linda Foster, DCTC director of instructional technology. “Online courses require self-motivation.”
These days a quality education is available to just about everyone, no matter if a student has an adjustable schedule and lives near a college campus, or is just too busy or too far away for a bricks-and-mortar education.
I am excited about what the next five years have in store for the e-learning environment. As technology advances, online courses are bound to provide students with even more enriched learning experiences.
Visit Online DCTC for more information on the e-learning possibilities at Dakota County Technical College. To learn more about the Marketing & Sales program, contact Carie Statz at 651-423-8622.