The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Enrollment up in online classes, statistics show

By Terry Webster/ne news editor

TCC’s enrollment jumped by 23 percent over the previous year, and much of that growth is attributed to more students taking online courses.“It’s just convenient for a lot of people,” said Velma Knudson, TCC manager of online services for distance learning.Overall enrollment at all five campuses was 49,111 on the last day of enrollment, compared to 39,851 in fall 2009.

Over the same period, enrollment in online classes increased from 18,809 to 22,519, an increase of 19.7 percent. Online enrollment figures include students who enrolled in multiple online courses, Knudson said.

Several factors are believed to have caused the increases.

“They might be older and have a full-time job or family responsibilities,” Knudson said. “We have young mothers with young children who might not be able to pay for a babysitter while they are in classes.”

Nationally, nearly all two-year colleges offer opportunities for students to take online classes. The number of institutions offering online learning increased from 89.3 percent in the 2004-2005 school year to 93.4 percent in 2009-10, according to figures provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. The center’s data includes any form of distance learning program offered at Title IV post-secondary institutions. Title IV institutions are those that administer federal student financial aid programs. 

Online courses are often the fastest to fill up at TCC, and that is expected to happen again when students begin enrolling for the spring semester Nov. 15. Part of the reason is that classes required by many degree programs are offered online.

English, history and government classes are among the most popular, Knudson said. But the list doesn’t end there. Speech, math and even physical education courses are among other courses offered online, she said.

Although convenient, online learning also has drawbacks for some students. The lack of face-to-face interaction can make it difficult for those who prefer that mode of learning. Completion rates for online courses also tend to lag behind traditional classrooms. Additionally, students need strong motivation to keep up with the coursework.

Some students get behind and then try to finish the entire course a couple of weeks before it ends, said NE Campus President Larry Darlage.

“Then they realize it’s really not possible,” he said.

Students might also be more compelled to drop a class if they can do it by just clicking a button. In a traditional classroom, students might stay in a class longer, especially if they like a particular teacher, Darlage said.

To help students adjust to online learning, teachers can incorporate some features of traditional learning into their courses. Online discussion boards, podcasts and virtual office hours are just a few of the tools in their arsenals.

Lisa Benedetti, NE communication arts department chair, uses computer software that allows her to hold online office hours one night a week.

Recognizing that online students often have busy schedules and few extra hours during normal operating hours, her virtual office hours allow her to meet with students who cannot do so during the day.

“It’s a wonderful way to connect with them, and they do not have to drive to the campus,” she said.

Benedetti also uses a virtual chalkboard that can show reports and other documents to students while they are online.

“I love the fact that we can evolve with the technology and can help students who cannot be here every day,” she said.

Moving forward, TCC officials now face the task of deciding how to rein in distance learning, if at all.

“We’ll need to look at whether we should decide how many online classes we have or whether it should be driven entirely by enrollment,” Darlage said.

Just don’t expect TCC to go entirely virtual.

“There will always be a need for bricks and mortar,” Knudson said.

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