December 23, 2004

Students and Teachers Adapt As Online Course Enrollments Grow

El Cajon - Since the beginning, education has been based on the students coming to the mountain. But now the new millennium, this new age, brings a new question: Can the mountain come to the students?

Technically, certainly. Intellectually, yes. Statistically, in the Grossmont College experience, yes and no.

“It is very important to get the right student in an online class in order for them to succeed,” said Irene Palacios of Grossmont’s math department, whose online Math 160 statistics class has demonstrated qualified success. Palacios cites her experience from teaching Math 160 online: “To succeed in an online class, the student must be self-motivated, enjoy working on his or her own, and avoid procrastination.”

At the Math 160 home page, Palacios seeks to find that understanding on the student’s part before enrolling. There is one on-campus orientation class, and midterm and final exams must be taken on-campus. Otherwise, online education is a kitchen lab.

Students appear to understand this. They are not deserting the campus for the kitchen lab. Online class enrollment has shot up at Grossmont in three years, from 899 in Fall 2001 to 1,719 in Fall 2003. Yet those students taking an online course also enrolled in traditional classroom sections for 80 percent of their unit load. They seem to be in experimenting mode, many of them driven by time constraints. All students need to get started is an e-mail address and a computer with Internet access.

“I decided to take the online course because I work, have two teenagers and a business,” said student Tracey St. John, responding to a brief questionnaire posted by Palacios online. “Very little time to attend class. I like the fact I can do the work when I can. The videos and online support help a lot, and the answer sheets are very helpful in learning to correctly answer questions. Yes, I would recommend (this course) to a friend.”

In this evolving new environment, of course, the teacher is also learning from the students. Questionnaire responses from one student suggested to Palacios that the course Website needed revision.

“Even though I had instructions as to what students needed to focus on, this one student did not read them,” she said. “So I need to change how I deliver this information.”

So Math 160 online will be taught slightly differently in Spring, 2005, and education in the new age continues to evolve.

According to Grossmont College President Dr. Ted Martinez, Jr., “I am pleased to note that Grossmont is offering a record 47 online classes for the Spring semester, which begins January 24. These courses represent a cross-section of the 1,182 general education and career preparation classes offered in the traditional format. We are fortunate to have so many talented faculty committed to helping students learn online.”

Courses range from one to four units. Course descriptions are available at www. gcccd.net/online/.

Students may apply and register for Spring classes online at www.grossmont.edu

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