At the age of 38, Lisa Hardman enrolled at Arapahoe Community College in Colorado with plans to earn enough English credits to transfer to a four-year institution. (Her two years of credits in music performance at University of Colorado were not very helpful.) Taking classes online helps her earn credits while caring for five children, ranging from a baby to teen-agers, she writes on Fastweb.
Whether it’s in the wee small hours of the morning, the middle of the afternoon, or late into the evening, my English Composition class is only a few clicks away. With my handy laptop and a wireless Internet connection, I can study and submit assignments anytime, anywhere within the walls of my humble abode. Better than cable on demand, online learning allows me the flexibility to be in my two favorite places at once – home and school – during this hectic phase of my life.
At times, she longs for “the orderly confines of a physical classroom,” with no arguing children, dirty dishes or ringing doorbells.
But then again, no one minds if I bring the crying baby to my online class. I don’t have to apologize for leaving in the middle of a lecture to pick up a child from school. I don’t have to ask permission to miss class so I can go to lunch with a friend. I like having the flexibility to structure my own time. In fact, I think I’ll get some studying in right now — after I change this diaper.
Online education is expanding rapidly at California community colleges, reports the Daily Breeze. Alissa Dimock, 44, studies litigation from the comfort of her South Pasadena bedroom.
Dimock has never met her professor. She’s also never sat in his class or set eyes on her fellow paralegal students at Los Angeles Mission College.
Instead, her studies rely on a virtual pedagogic exchange, tapped out every day on a keyboard 25 miles from the Sylmar campus.
Community colleges’ online enrollments are growing about 20 percent a year nationally. In Los Angeles Community College District, 11 percent of students now take classes online, even as the district completes a $6 billion campus construction makeover.
Proponents of online instruction tout many benefits, including more overall class participation and singular attention by professors.
Distance learning also grants greater access to nontraditional students, they say, allowing more flexibility to hit the books instead of fighting heavy L.A. traffic en route to campus. It also presents a digital medium familiar to younger students, while adding a powerful multimedia tool to traditional face-to-face classes.
More common are hybrid courses of traditional and online learning, as well as a growing number of hybrid students who take both online and traditional classes.
However, online classes require self-discipline and time management skills that some students lack. Some online students say they feel isolated.
Online students, on average, also don’t do as well as their face-to-face classroom counterparts, according to the LACCD. An average 58 percent of purely online distance learners earned a C or better last year, compared with 68 percent of regular class students. The dually enrolled students did slightly worse. In addition, up to 10 percent more students who study online fail to complete their classes.
Dimock “couldn’t be happier” with her online classes, even though it’s “sink or swim.” But she wouldn’t want her son to go to college online. “I want him to meet friends, play sports, live in the dorm, have the typical college experience,” Dimock says. “But as an older student, it’s perfect. I’m not going to meet friends.”