News - 03/26/2013

Online Enrollment Explosion at MiraCosta College

From the State Capitol, where Gov. Jerry Brown has offered increased incentives to community colleges to expand online offerings, to the proliferation of MOOCs—massive open online courses that some universities and newly formed education companies are offering free of charge—the nation has turned its eye to the many ways that online education provides increased opportunities to college students.
 
Here in North County San Diego, online education has seen an explosion of its own. In just the past three years, the percentage of full-time equivalent students enrolled in a MiraCosta College online course has increased nearly 40 percent. Today, nearly one out of every three students at MiraCosta takes at least one of their college classes online. Online course offerings range from accounting to Spanish, and include unique classes such as Biology 105, Genes and Technology in Society, and Music 114, the History of Rock and Roll.

Yearly Headcount Online Students
“The conventional wisdom about why people turn to online education really holds true at a community college,” said Dr. Jim Julius, faculty director of online education at MiraCosta College. “Online education is convenient. We have students here who are working, who have families, and it is convenient for them to take online courses.”
 
Take the case of Faith Missler, who lives in San Diego’s Mission Valley, more than 40 miles south of the Oceanside Campus.
 
“I can make my own hours, I can save on gas, I don’t deal with the headaches of a killer commute, and the education is just as good,” said the 46-year-old who went back to school after the Escondido restaurant she and her husband operated became a victim of the Great Recession.“I enjoy the online lectures more than the in-class lectures because they can be viewed multiple times, paused and replayed. I don't have to worry about missing information when taking notes."
 
 
MiraCosta College offered its first online education course in 1995. That number grew to 22 classes just four years later. Today, MiraCosta College offers roughly 200 course sections taught solely online and an additional 100 courses that are a hybrid of online and on-campus.

History of Online Education Courses
Community colleges across California have followed suit. Statewide, the number of online courses offered in the community college system increased from 21,414 in 2005-06 to 40,038 in 2009-10, a whopping increase of 87 percent, according to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.
 
As MiraCosta College has expanded its online course offerings, the success and retention rates of students in online courses have steadily increased as well. In fact, MiraCosta College’s retention rate for students taking online courses is 15 percent higher than the statewide average. This may be because students have become more sophisticated consumers of technology and the systems to support online learning have become more efficient and user-friendly.
 
This higher success rate is also because of the many years of online teaching experience MiraCosta College faculty have, as well as their continued commitment to instructional excellence, said Dr. Julius. These well-designed online classes may actually provide a better learning environment for some MiraCosta College students, said MiraCosta College math instructor Julie Harland, whose math-based videos posted on her public YouTube Channel have more than 2 million hits.
 
“Students decide what time during the day or week to learn the material,” Harland said. “If students need to slow down, they can back up and re-read part of a lecture, or watch a video more than once. In a classroom, you can’t put the professor on pause.”
 
Part of ensuring success in an online course is also making sure that students have the same type of support services afforded to students who are taking the more traditional in-class courses. “It's very important to have a lot of resources available, and to make sure the students are aware of all the help available to them,” says Harland.
 
To this end, MiraCosta College has increased the availability of online orientation and online advising, e-tutoring, and even offers live online chatting with librarians, available 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
 
The success of our students is always our top priority. Whether they are learning online or on-ground, our staff is committed to ensuring that the student experience at MiraCosta College is one of continued rigor and excellence.
 
Take a tip from our growing number of online students and see for yourself what makes MiraCosta College such an exemplary institution. Visit our virtual tour, an online service that was just recognized as the best of its kind by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations. Or better yet, sign up for an online class yourself—8-week summer courses begin June 3, with the 6-week summer session starting June 17. You can apply online at miracosta.edu, or call us at 760.757.2121.

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