STAFF EDITORIAL: Looking at the future of higher education

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It is an interesting idea to think of what the future of education holds. With the popularity of online classes, will we start to see actual on-campus attendance start to dwindle? What will community colleges look like in 10 years? Will our college continue to expand or will it start to shrink due to less enrollment in face to face classes?

According to the Sloan Consortium article “Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning” two-year associate’s institutions, like the college, have the highest growth rates in online enrollment and that they account for over one-half of all online enrollments.

Between 2010 and 2012 alone the college added 103 online class sections while losing 129 on campus sections, according to college distance learning reports. In 2012 the total number of credit hours that were online classes was 16 percent, which is up 3.9 percent from 2010, and it will only continue to grow in the future.

Although the abilities of technology are wonderful, there is something special about forming relationships in a classroom setting. Students are able to connect with their professors, as well as their classmates, in order to overcome challenges that may arise throughout the course.

In 2012 eight prefixes of classes saw success rates of online classes that were lower, by greater than 10 percent, than in classrooms. While there were just three prefixes of classes which saw a higher online success rate, by greater than 10 percent, compared to on campus classes. The eight classes that saw the lower success rates were all very hands on classes, where it is hard to learn from just reading a book and sitting behind a computer screen. For example foreign languages need classroom interactions and practice with a real person to be able to understand and be proficient in a new language.

With the future bringing us seemingly closer to a faceless society, it is important that we maintain that sense of humanity in a classroom setting. Even though the college may be perfectly ready to run many classes online, we must step back and think about it.

The number of colleges reporting that online classes are important to their long-term strategy is nearing 70 percent according to the Sloan Consortium, the highest in a 10 year period. Just 10 years ago it was less than 50 percent.

It is not a question of if we can, but a question of if we should.

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