Online Classes Expand Student Options

K. Patricia Bouweraerts

Online Education Concept Graphic

Students taking online courses at Truckee Meadows Community College are eager to share their experiences and offer course-mates advice about Web-based classes.

Julius Zacarias-Velasco, who is interested in pre-hospital Emergency Medical Services, takes classes and also has a job. He likes the flexibility of the Web. If he has another responsibility around the time that an assignment is due, he finds it’s easier to submit the work a bit early and then not have to worry about it.

“It’s good having the freedom and time to submit your assignments if you’re on a busy schedule, because you can submit assignments early,” he said. “Just don’t be late.”

Cassandra Hawthorne also works and takes classes. She has only one course to complete until she finishes her first degree, with two additional degrees and one certificate coming in the next couple of semesters.

“I’ve taken history courses, art courses, information technology, and computer information technology classes,” she said. “Online courses are my first choice, as the only time I can take an in-class course are early morning or late night. Web courses let me study at odd hours.”

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Classes

Velasco said the disadvantage he sees is that there are computer or software glitches once in a while, but they haven’t stopped him from getting work done.

“Technical issues are the challenging parts, but there’s a solution—you can resolve those issues with the WebCollege Department either in person, by email, or with a phone call,” he said.

Hawthorne finds that Math is a harder subject for her to take online, so she prefers to take more of the other subjects in Web-based format. She said one advantage is that when she sits down to work, she can work at her own pace and in her own space.

“Don’t get me wrong—I love a good in-class discussion, but that can happen online—without being interrupted,” she said.

Velasco and Hawthorne both say the Canvas platform is straightforward and easy to navigate.

“I like that you can keep up with your grade on Canvas,” she said. “I like the calendar and that it crosses off assignments when I’ve completed them.”

Velasco agrees.

“The most interesting thing about online classes is the structure of Canvas,” he said. “The more you use Canvas, the easier it becomes.”

Their Advice to Other Students

Velasco said communication between instructors and students is key.

“Just submit assignments on time, keep communication with instructors and be active in online discussions,” he said. “It shows how much you’re engaged with the content.”

He especially credits one of his art teachers, Candace Garlock, with presenting a very interesting Web course and providing support and immediate feedback. Near the end of one semester, he worked with Garlock to produce a short video about online student projects.

Hawthorne recommends Web-based classes to her friends.

“If it fits within your learning style and you can get the knowledge that you need, then yes, I would highly recommend online classes, and have, to many people,” she said. “Make sure you have a good internet connection and working equipment, and you’ll be fine.”

Online Coursework is Distance Education

Online, or Web-based courses can also be called Distance Education. Courses that combine in-classroom work with online work are called “Hybrid” classes.

Quality Matters (QM) is a nonprofit organization that provides a peer-review process to promote and recognize excellence in online courses. TMCC faculty have begun to gain QM certification for many of their courses, including Robin Griffin who has received recognition for her Web-based English 101 course.

“The QM recognition process is a rigorous one, proving instructors have huge commitments to designing and delivering effective online courses,” said Brandy Scarnati, Program Director for WebCollege and the Academic Support Center.

Gabriela Brochu, PhD, Foreign Language Coordinator is another faculty member who has sought and won national QM approval. In May, Brochu was awarded certification by Quality Matters for the Web-based class Spanish 112. This new certification adds to her previous award for Spanish 111.

Other professors who have achieved QM course certifications are Melanie Purdy, PhD, and Precious Hall, PhD

Scarnati added that three other faculty members are currently in progress for gaining the QM endorsement.

For more information about WebCollege, call 775-673-7814. To find a late-starting online course for which to register, go to Online course sections often end in the number three, and students can find out for sure by clicking “details” at the right.