The Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Online learning is developing a more widespread presence at community colleges across the country. The ability to offer classes via the Internet allows for a greater number of students to take the courses on their own time. Flexibility is the big buzzword, with online options providing students the ability to work higher education around work and family responsibilities. However, these new online offerings have their drawbacks as well as their benefits, which have prevented students from embracing them as a full-time college choice.
 
Study Shows Online Learning Works in Some Situations
 
A recent study from the Community College Research Center and Columbia University’s Teachers College found that students prefer online classes in some situations, but not all the time. According to Inside Higher Ed, students preferred face-to-face contact with instructors if the classes were especially challenging or the subject matter was complex or important. Students told researchers they did not feel they learned the material in a class as thoroughly when the class was taught online.
 
For the study, researchers talked to 46 students at two different community colleges in Virginia. Students surveyed had taken both online and face-to-face classes on their college campus. While the number of students included in the study was relatively small, researchers believe they demonstrated a valid representation of community college students across the country.
 
U.S. News reported that the students interviewed in this study told researchers they would be willing to take online classes for certain subjects. However, most preferred the face-to-face classroom experience, . . . read more

Community college completion rates have been a concern since President Obama made these two-year schools a focus in efforts to increase the number of college graduates in the U.S. The truth is that most community colleges currently see relatively low completion rates, due to a myriad of factors working against students attending these schools. The good news is there are many ideas on the table for improving community college completion rates nationwide. Check out these 10 ideas for increasing community college retention that are slowly being put into practice by community colleges across the country.
 
Adding Dual-Enrollment Programs
Dual-enrollment programs allow high school students to earn college credits before they earn their high school diploma. In some cases, the college courses are offered free of charge, depending on whether the state is willing to pick up the tab through special student funding. Other schools charge a nominal tuition fee, which is much lower than what high school graduates can expect to pay. Students that earn college credits during high school are much more likely to see their degree program through to completion.   
 
Collecting Data
The American Council on Education encourages community colleges to join the initiative, “Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count.” The initiative uses measurable data to promote higher student success, particularly among low-income and minority students. Around 130 community colleges nationwide have signed onto the initiative thus far. Some of the schools involved are already showing impressive improvement in student outcomes.
 
Increasing Accountability

New Community College in New York has just found itself $15 million richer, thanks to a generous donation from the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation. As one of the largest donations in community college history, the school felt a name change was in order as well. Now, New York’s newest community college will be known as the Stella and Charles Guttman Community College. In addition to the new name, the school is preparing to launch initiatives to improve graduation rates and expand their financial aid opportunities, courtesy of the foundation that is now the school’s namesake as well.
 
The Birth of a School
 
The New York Times reported in July, 2012, that New Community College was about to open its doors to its inaugural class of incoming high school graduates. The school was a new endeavor by City University of New York to bring an innovative two-year school to the Big Apple. New Community College wasted no time reaching out to the surrounding community of potential students; many of whom found the idea of higher education overwhelming and even out of reach.
 
The primary goal of New Community College was to provide relief for what ails community colleges today. CUNY designed the school structure from scratch, including a full curriculum that school officials hope will improve graduation rates and increase transfers to four-year schools. New York Community College Chancellor Matthew Goldstein stated on the CUNY website, “There is no more urgent task in higher education than to find ways . . . read more

In the midst of major turnover from the top down, Pima Community College is now on probation. The Arizona school has been notified by its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, that it has two years to turn things around or lose its accreditation status. With an executive team in limbo and reports of poor – and even unethical – management in recent years, it looks like Pima has its work cut out for the next two probationary years.
 
Problems from the Top Down
 
Tucson News Now reports that the problems at Pima that resulted in probation may have initiated from top administration officials. The publication specifically cites allegations of sexual harassment against Ray Flores, the former chancellor of the school, which were left unaddressed by school administrators for a number of years. The commission investigating the school also found a “hostile working environment” was reported by many staff members of the community college.
 
Other issues reported by the Arizona Daily Star include corrupt contracting practices. Executives of the school have been accused of approving expensive contracts without going through the appropriate bidding process. Throughout the accusations of mismanagement, there is a common thread of a culture cultivated of “fear and retribution” and an ineffective governing body that failed to address concerns or manage situations that made it challenging to work at the college.
 
Report Specifics that Led to Probation
 
Inside Higher Ed reports that the four-member accreditation team from the Higher Learning Commission found complex issues with the . . . read more

Interested in learning how community colleges throughout the state of California are performing? Now, it is easier than ever before to check on the progress of these schools, through a new scorecard system, that provides measurable date regarding student performance and success. The new web-based scorecards, which were recommended by the Student Task Force, provide statistics on completion and persistence rates, as well as other significant data.
 
About the New System
 
According to Inside Higher Ed, the new scorecard system was created in the midst of a series of reforms to improve the California Community College System overall. The scorecards represent an effort by community colleges to become more transparent to the general public, so that students considering higher education will be able to make more informed choices about schools in the state. There is also a hope that the accountability associated with the scorecard system will motivate schools to raise the bar on student performance and completion rates.
 
Community colleges have traditionally provided a cost-effective means of pursuing higher education for students of all backgrounds and income levels. However, reports of dismal completion rates, coupled with the system’s inability to accommodate all students in recent years, has placed greater scrutiny on the value of these schools. The current administration’s focus on community college as a means of turning out more college graduates has also created a need for more accountability for these schools.
 
The Purpose of the Scorecards
 
Brice W. Harris, chancellor of the California Community College System, told Inside . . . read more
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