As the online culture among young people continues to grow, so too does the number of college students earning credit online rather than in class.
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reveals that one in four of all college students take some or all classes over the Internet.
ACC has more than 1,500 students enrolled in online courses in the 2014 spring semester, which is 32 percent of the student body. That is higher than both the state and national average for online students, according to the Department of Education study. The number of students taking classes over the Internet at ACC has more than doubled since 2007.
“Online learning has been a component of ACC’s programs for more than 15 years,” said Dr. Drew Nelson, dean of Academic Programs. “During that time our online offerings have not only gotten bigger, they’ve gotten better. As more and more ‘digital natives’ enrolling at the college, we will continue to enhance our online programming.”
The college offers more than 150 different classes online as well as five Associate Degree programs that can be earned entirely online including General Studies, Psychology, Associate of Arts, Sociology and Management Development.
It’s not just young people who are logging on for their education. Many older students who already have jobs are returning to college to improve their work skills. They too are choosing online classes because they offer a lot of flexibility, said Dena Coots, ACC Distance Education director.
“For our students it’s a convenience,” she said. “Many of them have outside jobs, families and other commitments.”
To better prepare students for the differences of online courses, ACC began an online orientation program in 2013 as part of the accreditation reaffirmation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
While younger students are used to dealing with emerging technology, working students also perform well.
“Older students really excel in online courses,” Coots said. “They have the commitment and the drive to see that through.”
The list of online classes grows every semester to meet the demand from students, Coots said.
“We work hard to offer a broad range of courses,” she said. “We also strive to provide quality in our courses.”
Students are also requesting more than just courses online. Some want to complete their education entirely through the Internet.
“They are wanting more online programs,” Coots said. “We’re looking for more to offer them. We are currently developing drafting and paralegal programs which we hope to offer fully online in the near future.”