CMC’s distance learning enrollment virtually explodes | AspenTimes.com

CMC’s distance learning enrollment virtually explodes

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Daryl Yarrow

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Colorado Mountain College has seen a 14 percent increase in enrollment districtwide this fall, but many of those students can’t be found in the classroom.

That’s because they’re enrolled in the college’s various distance learning courses – classes taken via high-tech delivery modes such as Teleweb, interactive video systems and on the Internet.

Enrollment in CMC’s distance learning courses has jumped 41 percent this semester, compared to last fall. That’s in line with trends at other colleges in Colorado and around the country, said Daryl Yarrow, CMC’s vice president overseeing distance learning.

“We are very pleased with student response to our distance learning offerings,” Yarrow said. “Colorado Mountain College has increased the number of courses we offer each semester, and it appears that we are helping meet the need for affordable, anytime, anywhere education.”

Teleweb courses use a combination of Internet instruction and recorded lectures that students watch on videotape or DVD.

Also, the college’s interactive video system allows students to take part in classes taught from other campuses by sitting in a video-equipped room at their local campus.

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And, some classes are also taught online through Blackboard, an Internet interface in which students access the course materials online and interact with instructors and other students via online discussion boards.

Among CMC’s most popular distance courses are math, science, social sciences and business. Courses related to medical fields, including CMC’s medical assistant program which started last January, are also drawing more students this fall.

As of Sept. 30, 1,171 students had enrolled in distance learning courses for the fall semester at CMC, an increase of 341 over fall 2008.

The down economy is one reason community college enrollment in general is up. That’s also likely one reason more students are taking advantage of distance learning courses, Yarrow said.

“Certainly, the difficult economy has brought more students to the college who are seeking further education or retraining,” he said. “We are trying to help meet that need with additional online classes.”

Two new associate degrees are now offered completely online at CMC, which is headquartered in Glenwood Springs and has campuses around the Western Slope, including sites in Aspen and Carbondale.

In August, the Higher Learning Commission, which provides accreditation for the college, approved CMC’s new associate of arts and associate of general studies online degrees.

“For those who need a fully online option, we are now able to meet that need,” Yarrow said. “We have many students whose schedules do not allow them to attend classes in traditional formats. Our goal is to better serve our many diverse, growing communities.”

CMC has hired a part-time counselor specifically for online students, and the college is also offering accelerated online courses. A variety of three-credit courses, such as American Government, Art Appreciation and Introduction to Business, are now offered in eight weeks rather than the usual 15 to 16 weeks.

Many students combine traditional on-campus courses with online or other distance courses. During the 2008-09 academic year, almost 19 percent of CMC students taking classes for credit also took a class through distance learning.

Yarrow said studies show that distance learning works best for self-disciplined, independent students with college-level reading and writing skills, and for students who have an immediate need to take a course.

Potential online students can complete a self assessment at http://www.coloradomtn.edu/distancelearning to determine whether this format fits their needs.

jstroud@postindependent.com

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