Balancing work, family, personal life and getting to campus for classes can be challenging. Grand Rapids Community College administrators are providing more flexible opportunities for students and their schedules by aiming to make 25 percent of the college’s course offerings available online.
There are currently 172 GRCC courses available in class and in an online/hybrid format, making a total of 19.3 percent availability. A hybrid course is partly online and partly in class.
Administrators are working to develop 26 new online courses to meet their goal. The development of quality online courses takes time, staffing and resources, but the process has begun to create more opportunities to meet the diverse needs of students.
“Not everyone that attends GRCC lives in the area,” said Vanessa Olivia Velasco, 19, of Ionia, who makes a commute of about 45 minutes one way. “Everyone has their own situation. The variety within individuals and subjects makes having online and on-campus availability a smart move.”
Online courses are similar to courses offered on-campus in a classroom; they are just as rigorous. Most follow the semester schedule, have weekly assignments and require Discussion Board participation. The online classes cost the same and have the same credit worth as their in-class equivalents.
Students interested in taking online courses are encouraged to use the readiness checklist and the tips for successful online learning available at grcc.edu/online.
Some GRCC faculty have shown their support of online learning.
“Online classes increase the flexible learning opportunities for students,” said Eric Kunnen, Director of Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies at GRCC. “The opportunities help students achieve their goals.”
Online classes are easier to fit into busy schedules, extend learning beyond the classroom walls, and save travel time, paper and gas. They can be convenient for students that are managing work and family obligations.
“In my experience, some students have schedules that don’t permit them to be in a physical classroom when the campus class is offered,” said Garret Brand, Liaison for Faculty Professional Development and GRCC Professor. “The successful online student takes advantage of this flexibility, while giving the time needed to meet the course outcomes.”
These courses require students who are self-motivated, self-disciplined and have good time management skills. Online learning is rapidly growing nationally and at GRCC.
“GRCC minimizes the barriers of time, place, cost and educational preparation levels so that all members of the community have an opportunity to participate in college programs,” Kunnen said.
Learning online is not for everyone and their learning style. The classroom is more beneficial for some students that need the structure and direct contact that is provided for them by an on campus class.
“As a teacher, I do not support online classes. It doesn’t duplicate what you get in the classroom environment,” said Frederick van Hartesveldt, English Department professor and GRCC Faculty Association President, speaking on his own behalf. He said that online instruction lacks discussion and learning that you get from being in the physical classroom.
“I do believe there is value in trying different types of classes. If you don’t try something new, you won’t know if it is a good way to learn,” said van Hartesveldt.
Each student has their own learning style.
“The college is committed to providing learning options that best fit the needs of students,” Kunnen said. “This could be online, face to face or hybrid classes.”
Brand agrees. “It is important to provide options for our students if it contributes to their success. It doesn’t help to be “flexible” if they will not succeed in the online format. We need to offer the variety because it works with their learning style, level of commitment/self-motivation and needs. We also need to provide students with the same level of support, regardless of delivery.”
For more information about online learning and resources, visit: grcc.edu/online or grcc.edu/dlit.