USA — With 12 complete degree programs available online, along with a wide selection of general education classes, new and continuing students are taking advantage of online classes at Hancock College.
Known as Distance Learning classes, enrollment in online offerings at Hancock has increased to nearly 4,000 students, according to the latest data from the fall 2008 semester. With increased class offerings, students can complete all of their general education requirements online and even complete an associate degree in 12 different areas: English, psychology, accounting, business, international studies, social science, Spanish, fire technology, wildland fire technology, computer business information systems, and computer business office technology.
The college has incorporated new technology and methods that have dramatically improved the success levels of students in online classes. Using funding from a federal grant designed to help students with learning disabilities succeed in online classes, 10 faculty members have received additional training to help them improve the structure of their online classes. The results were surprising and exciting, according to grant coordinator Holly Chavez.
“This has far exceeded our expectations,” she said. “Not only have students with learning disabilities improved their success rate, the pass rate for all students improved dramatically.”
Prior to the implementation of the grant, called Learning Disabilities and Distance Learning: Preparing Faculty for Student Success, 50 percent to 60 percent of students passed their online classes. In the classes that have been modified, that number has increased to 85 percent to 95 percent of both learning and non-learning disabled students. Using the theory of Universal Design for Learning, a system that encourages teachers to accommodate all learning styles, instructors added videos, audio, photo albums and reading options to their online classes. Online classes were reorganized and restructured.
“It’s exposed me to new ideas and new ways of teaching,” said anthropology instructor Brian Stokes.
“Definitely I see a difference,” said Sonia Anguiano, a student in Stokes’ anthropology class. “There are more options; for example, we can choose between reading an article and watching a video on the same subject.”
Instructors have reported receiving fewer questions overall from their students since implementing the new changes, Chavez said. In fact, the grant has been so successful that it has been extended until the end of the academic year. The eventual goal, Chavez said, is to train all online instructors in these new methods.
That’s good news students, Stokes said. Online classes can be challenging, he explained, and depend more on the students to stay motivated and keep up with coursework. At the same time, he believes the opportunities online classes create can make a big difference.
For more information, visit www.hancockcollge .edu.