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Online learning continues to grow at Glendale Community College

Online learning continues to grow at Glendale Community College
Distance education learning and teaching continues to rise for Glendale College students and instructors, according to a report released at a board of trustees meeting last month. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Sometimes long-distance relationships can be good.

That’s what Glendale Community College officials think, at least in terms of student online learning.

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Distance-education learning and teaching continues to rise for Glendale Community College students and instructors, according to a report released last month.

Perhaps the only setback is that the school can’t staff educators quickly enough.

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“We’re trying to keep up with demand for students that want to take [distance-education] courses,” said Alexa Schumacher, the program’s coordinator.

The school’s distance education is broken into three categories: online courses, hybrid courses and proctored online courses.

Online courses are 100% on the internet, while a hybrid course does require some on-campus meeting between a student and teacher. A proctored online course requires students take tests at a proctoring facility.

This past spring, 11.5% of Glendale Community College students enrolled in at least one distance-education course, up from 9% the previous spring, which is the highest over the past eight semesters.

Full-time students are also taking advantage of online courses, with 9.6% having enrolled in at least one class last spring. That number beat the previous best of 9.5% from spring 2015.

There’s even been an increase in online-only students, with that number at 4.1% this past spring, according to the report. That marks the first time the 4% threshold has been crossed.

The effectiveness of online learning trails just slightly.

While distance education is gaining on brick-and-mortar learning, traditional educational results were still leading as of last spring in student retention (85.4% compared to 83.7%) and success rate (74.1% compared to 71.7%), which means students pass with at minimum a “C” grade.

The college’s course success rate, though, is higher than the state’s 68% average.

Overall, there were 169 distance-education courses this past spring. Although some departments at the school have been quick to embrace the technology, others have balked. The business department, for example, leads with 17.8% of its classes offered fully online or as a hybrid.

While the average distance education per department offering was 5.5%, the biology, credit English as a second language, health sciences and mathematics departments offered no online classes.

“We’re trying to bring in more and more divisions, particularly the sciences,” said Eric Hanson, the college’s dean of library and learning support services. “We’re investigating how that’s working.”

As the number of online courses and students continues to increase, so, too, does the need for instructors.

“I should say, though, that demand for online education is growing rapidly, and we’re seeing a move by instructors to get their [distance-education] certification so they can fill their classes,” said Michael Ritterbrown, the school’s vice president of instruction services.

Ritterbrown added, “For general education classes, like speech and English 101, we can’t open the classes fast enough.”

Glendale Community College has nearly doubled the number of distance-education staff by offering free certification to its instructors.

To become certified, which is necessary for any online course, an instructor must take a 40-hour, four-week, fully online course.

According to Schumacher, the college has nearly doubled its ranks of certified instructors, from 110 in January 2017 to 225 last month.

More than just training, Glendale College has assigned distance-education faculty, with a resource in Julie Gamberg, the college’s distance-education faculty development coordinator.

“My goal is to develop, oversee and track advanced training for [distance-education] faculty to keep them current in this quickly-changing field, and to keep us competitive by teaching faculty-successful [distance-education] pedagogy and supporting them in implementing it,” Gamberg said.

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