Published: April 12, 2006
PJC has offered distance learning courses via the Internet since 2004 as an alternative for people who cannot consistently attend classes on campus. Students can register for courses on PJC’s website.
Currently eCoast offers about 60 different courses that allow students to earn an A.A. in either business or general studies. Students that wish to attain a career in a certain field can now take classes and work toward a degree from any location in the world that is connected to the world wide web.
“Once you eliminate the required visits to campus, then you’re opening your market to virtually the whole world,” Bill Waters, director of distributed learning at PJC, said. “We’re not trying to necessarily emulate the classroom experience, but we are trying to use technology in a way that promotes the whole idea of a learning center college.”
Students can be assured that in most cases a degree from a distance learning course will not hinder their chances of employment. When the student earns any credits from an online course, it will appear on their transcript as a legitimate course credit, and will not be differentiated in any way from credits that were earned on campus.
The courses themselves are taught by actual PJC faculty. Either a particular member of the faculty will come forward and propose a course, or the department head will become aware of the need for a specific course to be presented online, and will offer it to members of his department.
In either case, the instructor of the course will develop the material and then present it to a curriculum counsel. The instructor then will work with a team of instructional technologists to adapt the course material into a smooth, effective online class. It is then submitted for a peer faculty review, and is subsequently approved as a distance learning course.
“I’m [teaching] 100 percent distance [learning courses] and I absolutely love it because with my entire heart I believe that’s the wave of the future,” Carol Horigan, an art humanities teacher who’s teaching all of her classes online this semester, said.
According to Horigan, the benefits of an online classroom extend beyond simple convenience. It also provides students with a greater sense of comfort with fellow “classmates,” as well as produces a sound one-on-one rapport between instructor and student through use of e-mail and instant messaging.
“There are a lot of different personalities out there and so some people need one way to learn and some need another way to learn,” Horigan said, “As an online instructor you want to provide a lot of different formats… and there are enough alternatives online that you can [do that].”
As the world continues to grow as a global community, online schooling is sure to be utilized more and more commonly. The next step for PJC’s online distance learning will be to add more programs to the list of degrees offered. The school is also offering “hybrid” courses, which are a mix of campus attendance and online work, which has seen rapid growth in recent years.