Community Colleges across the U.S. are seeing growth in their student populations, but not from the kind of students who walk onto a schools actual campus. According to a new study over 500 community colleges done by the Instructional Technology Council, enrollment growth is being driven almost entirely by the surge in online learners.
In 2006, the overall student bodies of community colleges across the U.S. grew by just 2 per cent, but online study grew by over 15 per cent. As a result, the community colleges are now finding themselves overwhelmed by a demand for more online courses than they can supply.
Taking “Distance” Out Of “Distance Learning”
Ironically, many of the new distance learners enrolling in these programs aren’t really at a “distance” at all. Many simply sign up for e-learning courses at their local community college because they want to get a degree at a lower cost, and they actually prefer the online learning experience to that in a live classroom.
For the colleges, the greatest challenge lies in delivering teaching in the areas considered less friendly to the online classroom format: nursing, engineering, art, music, speech and others. The new surge is also making it necessary for community colleges to make rapid investments in the technologies needed to deliver quality online learning, and the bring in new professors who are comfortable working in the distance learning format.