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 offering 100 percent online degree programs in various fields. The coalition may be just the beginning of a more significant movement to make prospective students aware of their distance options available through local community colleges nationwide.

Online Alliance Expands Degree Choices

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

Students can complete the new degree programs online, eliminating time and location constraints they might have battled in the past. According to the Democrat and Chronicle, the movement 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 more significant presence for online education through community colleges in the area, hoping to attract more students and increase 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 can access the OWL network to peruse degree options and requirements. Although students enroll for their degree program at a single “home” college, they can take any courses through the OWL network, allowing them to explore options at other colleges.

“Students access the OWL Alliance through the OWL website to explore courses or degrees that 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 benefit students directly.

“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 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 further Community Colleges's mission.

Transfer Options with SUNY

All the degrees earned through the OWL network will be transferrable to any SUNY institution, providing seamless transitions for students who want to continue their education to a bachelor's degree. Many students 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 near 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.”

According to a report at Seneca Daily, the new alliance exemplifies three of the “big ideas” promoted by the 2010 SUNY Strategic Plan. 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 for making 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 running and can be found on the Alliance website. The system is ready for students to use during the summer semester of 2012. Each member school also has a concierge who can answer students' 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 would 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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