Online education means many things these days. To some, it's never stepping inside a classroom. For others, it's a mix of face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses.
If attending 100% online is the goal, students at San Jacinto College have a myriad of career options, including accounting, real estate, business, computer science, criminal justice, health information management, and medical billing and coding.
"Personal preference is what makes the difference," said Niki Whiteside, assistant vice chancellor, instructional innovation and support. "There is also the convenience factor. Some students might have a full-time job and are unable to make it to campus, and others may not have a caretaker for their loved ones. By having the different modalities available, it helps them fit the pursuit of higher education into their lives."
Juan Trevizo, a husband and father of two, is a returning San Jac student. Although he wasn't ready for college the first time around, he is now motivated and ready to focus on a computer science degree. Studying online means no conflicts with his unpredictable work schedule and fewer family milestones missed.
"Time really gets away from you when you're busy," Trevizo said. "My kids are growing up, and they start to notice their father is always working and missing out. The time has come for me to commit to myself, my children, and my education. That's why I'm more committed than ever to earn this degree."
Online vs. brick and mortar
English professor Penny O'Neal believes online education can provide the same quality as a traditional classroom.
"Many online students use that modality because of barriers or access issues to a campus classroom," O'Neal said. "For example, over the years I have taught a lot of military personnel who were overseas, as well as nursing mothers, those with physical mobility issues, and students who travel for work a great deal. Those students deserve a quality class taught by someone who is proficient and up to date on the latest best practices."
Whether it's a face-to-face or online course, the instructor sets the tone and chooses the best teaching materials for the course. Course materials include traditional textbooks, e-books, video presentations, downloadable products, temporary access to teaching aids, and interactive and digital content.
"I use instructional videos I create, presentations with my picture or fun Bitmojis of me, voiceover on presentations, grading videos, and twice-weekly announcements," O'Neal said. "A consistent presence in a course helps students feel more connected to the instructor, and hopefully that leads to better engagement."
O'Neal helps her online students by breaking up the course into smaller segments with accompanying videos, quizzes, and interactive scenario-based discussion boards. She shares feedback and informal video wrap-ups to highlight what students need to work on.
Support network available
Online students have the same resources as face-to-face students — from library services, tutoring, and student services labs to events and professors' office hours all available remotely. Students can also use live chat and schedule remote appointments with student services staff via the College's website.
While the course mode may differ, due dates, assignments, and exams still span the whole semester. Whiteside believes time management is one of the keys to being successful in online education. Prioritizing study time, completing assignments, and meeting weekly deadlines are ways students can avoid falling behind in their courses.
"It takes discipline to focus and get the assignments completed on time," Trevizo said. "Navigating Blackboard was challenging in the beginning. Once I figured out how to access the assignments and all the resources my professors offered, I felt optimistic going back to school was the right choice."
To learn more about San Jac's online programs, visit sanjac.edu/program/online.