Online learning’s tough? Try online teaching!

I read with interest our newspapers’ story last week saying many of America’s university professors don’t consider online courses real college material, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Here’s the lead to Staff Writer Beau Yarbrough’s story: “Professors teaching hundreds or thousands of students online has been all the buzz in academic circles, but the professors who teach those courses say they shouldn’t be worth college credit. That’s the big finding in a study published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “The magazine surveyed 103 professors who teach what are known as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, in February. The courses are sometimes taken by thousands of students at one time, on subjects ranging from basic English literature courses to engineering.”

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West Los Angeles College has become a leader in online education

You have to clear more obstacles to approve an online class at West Los Angeles College than you would in the 400-meter hurdle. Yet in setting a high bar for computer-based courses, the community college has outdistanced the competition in online student participation, reports the Los Angeles Daily News. Nearly 38 percent of the school’s 12,000 students took an online computer course in the fall—triple the number in any other Los Angeles community college. “We have degrees that we fully offer online,” said Eric Ichon, the school’s dean of distance learning and instructional technology. “We’re constantly working to improve our classes.” Last spring, the college offered 213 fully online classes and 100 hybrid online-classroom courses, for roughly a quarter of all classes offered. West L.A. has led the Los Angeles Community College District in distance learning because of an early state grant, strong administrative support, a full-time online administrator, and because of the bane of all westside students—traffic. Online classes began in 2000, and just took off as a way for students to graduate sooner. “Traffic is horrendous,” Ichon said. “So if you’re working all day, it’ll take you longer to get to class than being in class,” he said. “If I’m online, I’ve just tripled my study time.” West L.A. makes online tutors available for struggling students. And if someone needs help, “we answer the phone,” Ichon said. “And if a student sends me an eMail, they get a response that day. If they call, we call back.”

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