By Alejandra Garcia
Amarillo College officials say they recognize the need for more online-based degrees and online and tech-supported classes in a post COVID world.
“I just want to see AC be the best it can be,” Johnny Mize, the chair of board of regents, said. “I believe that online learning is part of our future and COVID has emphasized that.”
Recently, Mize formed an AC taskforce to look into making online-only classes and programs more available to students. This task force has four objectives. First, to identify existing and new programs that can extend into online degrees.
Second, to systematize cohort-based faculty development targeting online teaching. Third, to identify and study the best practices in business, industry and education for online learning. Fourth, to create online learning systems, capabilities and methods that are recognized as achieving the best access and results.
“We want people that can’t come to class,” Mize said. “This would give them access to anytime learning.” Online classes offer the ability for students to get degrees without the need for a face-to-face environment; whereas tech-supported classes include synchronous video conferencing interactions, Mize said.
“I think that COVID has brought to light that to continue student success we are probably going to need both,” Lori Petty, the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, said. “I think there is a group of students that could benefit from tech-supported courses and a group that could benefit from online.”
“There’s a demand for online programs all the time,” Becky Burton, the associate vice president of academic learning, said. “There’s definitely a market,” Burton said fully online schools such as Western Governors, Western New Hampshire and the University of Phoenix have growing enrollments.
The task force is researching ways to add fully online programs to AC’s offerings. Burton said the next step may be to talk to schools that have great online programs, finding out what they do differently and what support services they provide.
“It goes back to finding the students where they are,” Burton said. “It opens up the doors of education to students who don’t feel like they an opportunity to go to college because of the traditional setting of a college environment.”