NH colleges profit from online, hybrid classes

New Hampshire community colleges are adding online and hybrid classes to help working students — and boost college revenues, reports the Concord Monitor.

“A large majority of our students work full time,” said Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System. “So the flexibility of being able to take an online course is very attractive to them.”

In the past four years, the number of online students has doubled throughout the seven-college system. The number of online classes has increased by 67 percent and continues to grow.

Students will be able to take online classes from any New Hampshire community college, not just the nearest one. That’s expected to help students in rural areas.

“We can deliver more courses in a more effective way,” Gittell said. “It also increases the average enrollment, which increases the class size per course, which increases the net revenue since of course we still only have the one faculty person that you pay.”

New Hampshire Technical Institute made  more than $2 million in revenue from online courses, reports the Monitor. By fall, NHTI will have five online degree programs available.

Community college ‘flips’ classrooms

“Flipping” the classroom –putting lectures online and using class time for coaching, collaboration and discussion — is the latest thing at Grand Rapids Community College, reports EdTech Magazine.

“The idea is not new, but the technology gives more power, flexibility and opportunity to make use of the limited face-to-face time we have for true student engagement and interactive learning.” says Eric Kunnen, director of distance learning and instructional technologies.

Says Professor Garry Brand, GRCC’s lead faculty facilitator of distance learning and instructional technologies, in a TechSmith whitepaper: “These days, students who miss an important point the first time have a second chance. After class, they can pipe the lecture to their laptops or MP3 players and hear it again while looking at the slides that illustrate the talk.”

Shifting lectures to out-of-class time lets professors cover more material and prepares students to participate in class discussions, advocates hope.

Students learn just as much in ‘hybrid’ classes

Students learn just as much in classes that blend traditional and online learning, concludes a new study, Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials.

Students at six public universities were assigned randomly to take statistics “in a hybrid format (with machine-guided instruction accompanied by one hour of face-to-face instruction each week) or a traditional format (as it is usually offered by their campus, typically with 3-4 hours of face-to-face instruction each week).”

We find that learning outcomes are essentially the same—that students in the hybrid format “pay no price” for this mode of instruction in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy. . . adopting hybrid models of instruction in large introductory courses have the potential to significantly reduce instructor compensation costs in the long run.

However, faculty members need help in designing hybrid courses and making them more engaging, the researchers advised.

Online students more likely to fail

Online students are less likely to succeed than students in traditional classes at Washington state community and technical colleges, according to a five-year study released by the Community College Research Center at Teachers’ College, Columbia University. Results were similar to those found in a parallel CCRC study in Virginia.

Online students were employed for more hours and and had demographic characteristics associated with stronger academic preparation, compared to students in hybrid and traditional classes. However, after controlling for student characteristics, online students were more likely to withdraw or fail.

In addition, students who took online coursework in early terms were slightly but significantly less likely to return to school in subsequent terms, and students who took a higher proportion of credits online were slightly but significantly less likely to attain an educational award or transfer to a four-year institution.

Students who took hybrid courses were similar demographically to students in face-to-face courses and were equally likely to complete their courses.

“Given the importance of online learning in terms of student convenience and institutional flexibility, current system supports for online learning should be bolstered and strengthened in order to improve completion rates among online learners,” the report recommends.

Study: Online students do worse

Online students were less likely to pass classes than students in traditional classes, concludes a Virginia Community College System (VCCS) study by the Community College Research Center.

Over four years, nearly half of Virginia community college students enrolled in an online course, but few took classes entirely online.  Students with stronger academic preparation were more likely to enroll in online courses, but failure rates were higher.

In addition, students who took online coursework in early semesters were slightly less likely to return to school in subsequent semesters, and students who took a higher proportion of credits online were slightly less likely to attain an educational award or transfer to a four-year institution.

Few hybrid classes combining both online and face-to-face instruction were offered, so it’s not clear if these classes have lower success rates.

Many online instructors “import traditional pedagogy and materials to the web,” researchers concluded. Professors don’t have the time or training to redesign their courses for the web; not much is known about what works.

The Gates Foundation is funding a CCRC study in Virginia to identify effective online teaching, particularly in developmental and gatekeeper English and math courses.