The Transylvania Times -

Distance Learning Expands Educational Reach

At Blue Ridge

 

Last updated 10/28/2019 at 2:20pm

Blue Ridge Community College hosts the Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) Interact students weekly. One of the instructors, Lynne Poe, teaches the students about health and wellness. The TVS students enjoy coming to the college campus each week to learn about improving their health. (Photo courtesy of Edward Maglott)

Some Blue Ridge Community College students greet their instructors in person, pull out notebooks or laptops to take notes, and participate in lectures and classroom activities in the traditional manner of education.

Alternately, some Blue Ridge Community College students tune in to large screen TVs at school and learn from an instructor teaching from the main campus in Flat Rock or the Health Sciences Center in Hendersonville using video-conferencing technology.

Other students interact with the instructor and the learning material in an online environment through an online or hybrid course. A hybrid course will meet once a week in person or through the interactive television (ITV) classroom and all other learning interactions take place on the online learning management system (LMS).

In a completely online course, all interactions such as lectures, forum discussions, assignment submissions and testing take place on the LMS.

The multiple delivery methods for college courses means more courses are available for Blue Ridge students. Students can sit in an ITV classroom at the Transylvania Campus, saving 44 miles of drive time and gas money, and "attend" a course being taught at the Flat Rock main campus. Students can work a day shift or a night shift and then fit in their online coursework at times convenient to them.

Jason Ford, Blue Ridge Director of Online Learning said, "students live in a digital and mobile world. We are seeing trends where more and more students require flexibility in their schedule due to family, work and regular life commitments."

"With the ability to offer virtual classrooms online or live-stream on-campus courses, Blue Ridge can help our online students feel a part of the traditional classroom community. Here at Blue Ridge, we know there may be barriers that keep students from coming to our campuses to continue their education, so we provide the means to bring our high-quality education to them," said Ford.

Jonathan Sacco, a second year criminal justice major at Blue Ridge, has taken a majority of his coursework through distance learning.

Sacco said, "It's not that different. Although we are not in the same place as the instructor, we have microphones to ask questions. It was unusual at first, but now in my third semester I don't mind it and actually prefer it."

Sacco appreciates the hybrid course set up. The criminal justice student likes having time to prepare and take tests when it is convenient for him. He also values the detailed instructions and grading rubrics found in many online courses, preferring them to oral directions given in a classroom. Sacco explains the downside is that students may have to wait for an email response to clarify a question and can't always get an instant answer.

Blue Ridge has used videoconferencing tech-nology to teach courses in ITV classrooms since 2000. The set up has evolved from satellite to internet transmission and utilizes high definition video signaling and smart microphones and cameras.

The college saves resources by delivering interactive courses electronically instead of having faculty commute between campuses to teach.

Cory Kale, adjunct professor of political science and American government said, "Traditionally, educating pupils was confined to the standard classroom environment. However, with the advent of distance learning rooms utilizing ITV technology, we are now able to reach a greater student population. This is key for colleges like Blue Ridge that have more than one campus in the region."

Blue Ridge Community College Instructor Cory Kale teaches American Government using videoconferencing technology (Photo courtesy of Edward Maglott).

More programs are available to Transylvania County campus students because distance learning expands the reach beyond the main campus. This school year Blue Ridge is sending and receiving 33 courses to the Transylvania campus. Students like Sacco can achieve their educational goals without having to make an everyday commute to Henderson County.

Glenda McCarson, Blue Ridge Associate Vice President said, "For many of our students the 44-mile trip could as well be 2,000 miles as transportation is an issue. The courses provided through distance learning allow students the opportunity to take courses they otherwise would not be able to take."

Blue Ridge Community College is registering students for spring semester courses now through Dec. 20. Current and future students may meet with an advisor to discuss career paths and plan out their spring schedule of courses. Spring semester courses will begin Jan. 7. Call 883-2520 or visit http://www.blueridge.edu for more information about the application, financial aid or registration process.

(Handy is a member of the BRCC staff.)

 
 

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