New York Community Colleges Launch Distance Learning Alliance

New York Community Colleges Launch Distance Learning Alliance
In an effort to compete with for-profit schools, New York community colleges have launched an alliance to offer distance learning to make classes more accessible to students.

Students wishing to pursue higher education will now have another, more convenient option, thanks to a new alliance announced by New York community colleges. The new distance learning alliance involves six New York community colleges that will come together to offer 100-percent online degree programs in a wide range of fields. The alliance may be just the beginning of a larger movement to make prospective students aware of their distance options available through local community colleges across the state.

Online Alliance Expands Degree Choices

The Corning Leader reports that the State University of New York (SUNY) has announced an alliance of online learning that will provide 34 different associate degree programs through six different state community colleges. The new alliance, dubbed the Online Western New York Learning Alliance (OWL), includes Corning, Erie, Finger Lakes, Genesee, Jamestown, and Monroe Community Colleges.

Students will be able to complete the new degree programs completely online, eliminating time and location constraints they might have battled in the past. The movement, according to Democrat and Chronicle, is to better compete with for-profit schools that offer online programs for a higher price and often of lesser quality. The alliance provides a greater presence for online education through community colleges in the area, with the hope of attracting more students and increasing college completion rates overall.

“We have created this alliance so that [students] can be better informed about what we have,” Terry Keys, assistant vice president for educational technology services at Monroe Community College, told the Democrat and Chronicle.

This video describes Craven Community College's more than 44 completely online degrees, diplomas, and certificates.

About the OWL Network

Students will be able to access the OWL network to peruse degree options and requirements. Although students enroll for their degree program at a single “home” college, they are able to take any of the courses through the OWL network, allowing them to explore options at the other colleges as well.

“Students access the OWL Alliance through the OWL website, to explore courses or degrees which most efficiently fit their academic interests, needs, and schedules,” Cori Dunagan, spokesman for Jamestown Community College explained to The Post-Journal. “Students will be officially matriculated in only one of the six OWL colleges but can take online courses from the entire OWL network, seamlessly transferring and earning credits among the partner colleges. Upon completion of required coursework, students earn a degree from their ‘home’ college.”

Larry Dugan, director of online learning at Finger Lakes Community College, told MPN Now that the combination of classes and resources of the schools included in the alliance should offer direct benefits to students.

“When this works the way we expect, a student will have more options and an easier path to achieve their goals,” Dugan said.

One of the unique features of the OWL Alliance will be a concierge service that provides additional support to online students. According to the Post-Journal, every college in the alliance will have its own concierge to handle students’ questions about enrollment, course selection, and advisement. The concierge is designed to help students meet their academic goals by offering appropriate support and guidance throughout the education process.

“Our collective experience, supported by our new concierge model for students [will help them] get in and through the maze of financial aid, registration, advisement, and other requirements necessary to succeed in college,” Dugan told MPN Now.

This video discusses distance learning best practices that help to further the mission at Community Colleges.

Transfer Options with SUNY

All of the degrees earned through the OWL network will be transferrable to any SUNY institutions, providing seamless transitions for students who want to continue their education to a bachelor's degree. Many students choose to begin their four-year degree at a community college to save money on tuition and make the process more convenient. With the online education option, convenience increases tenfold, particularly for students who do not live in close proximity to any of the community colleges.

“This is fantastic news for Western New Yorkers seeking a college degree while also managing responsibilities at home and on the job,” SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher stated at The Leader. “By making 100 percent of the required coursework available online, the OWL alliance makes a SUNY degree more accessible and attainable for many students, and contributes to degree completion, some of our primary objectives as providers of public education.”

The new alliance exemplifies three of the “big ideas” promoted by the 2010 SUNY Strategic Plan, according to a report at Seneca Daily. Those ideas include establishing a seamless education pipeline, promoting entrepreneurship, and developing dynamic connections to the world.

This video offers community guidelines and key steps you can take to make the most of an online learning environment.

What the OWL Alliance Offers

Included in the 34 degree programs available through the OWL Alliance are: Business administration, business management, entrepreneurship, eCommerce, office management, sales and customer service, criminal justice, economic crime investigation, homeland security, GIS software application, computer information systems, sports and tourism studies, physical education, general studies, human services, teacher education and assistant, and tourism management.

The OWL Alliance is already up and running and can be found at the Alliance website. The system is ready for students to begin using during the summer semester of 2012. Each member school also has a concierge in place that can answer student's questions about the new system or provide guidance throughout the registration and course selection process. These individuals are also available to provide information about financial aid options.

The new alliance will begin with 34 degree programs in the fields of study listed above. Zimpher told the Democrat and Chronicle that the ultimate goal of the network will be to offer coordination for all 64 SUNY schools, which could substantially increase the number of degree programs and course options for students who enroll in the network.

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