Distance learning brings higher education closer for many residents

2/23/09


Enrollment continues to rise at Cumberland County College, with a record-breaking 3,699 students taking courses during the spring semester. Many students are studying at CCC in the traditional manner, attending on-campus classes during the day. But more and more students, particularly those with job and family responsibilities, are choosing courses that they can fit into their busy schedules, such as distance learning courses.

During the spring semester, 490 students are enrolled in online courses, 136 students in hybrid courses and 77 students in telecourses.

CCC’s online courses are convenient for many students because they are conducted over the Internet using an e-learning course management system that enables them to download class notes, submit assignments, take exams, read and contribute to class discussions, and communicate with their instructors and classmates.

Hybrid courses combine video-taped lectures with Internet discussions and assignments. Last summer, CCC Professor Kevin McGarvey filmed his English 101 and 102 lectures on campus as part of his award-winning hybrid course offerings. He notes that one of his spring semester students lives in North Carolina, and contributes to the class message board at all hours. Last year, a student who lives in New Guinea took Professor McGarvey’s courses.

That’s why they’re called “distance learning” courses. Students who live in Vineland or any place else in the world can learn at home or on a laptop almost anywhere by taking online or hybrid courses. And local students can learn at home by taking CCC telecourses, which are class lectures broadcast on Comcast Cable’s Channel 9.

Distance learning courses aren’t for all students, but they are a means of providing access to higher education for more people in our community and throughout the world. Students must be dedicated “self starters” since these courses aren’t short-cuts for obtaining a postsecondary certification or degree. The content and quality of instruction is equivalent to courses taught on campus; the only aspect of distant learning courses that is different is the delivery.

Since more and more people need postsecondary education and training to secure family-sustaining careers, distance learning is destined to grow just as traditional postsecondary education will continue to increase. CCC graduates can complete their bachelor’s degree online through a partnership our college has with Franklin University in Ohio. And this fall, students will be able to earn a CCC certificate in Homeland Security online, whether they live in Millville or Miami.

Somehow, an Abraham Lincoln quote fits here: “I will study and prepare myself, and someday my chance will come.”

Distance learning will grow at CCC because we need to deliver courses in a creative, flexible manner so more people can prepare for their chances in today’s fast-moving, competitive society.