I work for two large community college systems in the Houston, Texas area where I am a part-time instructor, or adjunct faculty member. Lone Star College and Houston Community College have both adopted e-learning programs that allow students to complete a two-year degree entirely online. Lone Star College has an average enrollment of approximately 95,000 students and offers an online Associate of Arts degree with optional concentrations in Business, Criminal Justice, Speech Communication, and International Studies as well as an online Associate of Science degree with an optional concentration in Computer Science. Houston Community College has an average enrollment of approximately 47,000 students and delivers a slightly more varied selection of online degree plans by offering an Associate of Arts degree with concentrations in Communication, Business, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Fine Arts as well as an Associate of Science degree with concentrations in Computer Science, Engineering, Health and Natural Sciences, and Mathematics. Both institutions have invested heavily in e-learning as a viable alternative to traditional classroom instruction, as evidenced by their slick promotional web sites (http://www.lonestar.edu/lsc-online/ and http://de.hccs.edu/) designed to sell e-learning course options to prospective students.
As I begin my doctoral journey at Northcentral University (NCU), I am glad that I have developed the skills necessary for self-directed learning.
NCU thus far has been a rigorous series of assignments meant to prepare me for the doctoral dissertation at the end of my program. The coursework at NCU is challenging and there isn’t much support for students who need extra guidance. Don’t get me wrong, now — NCU provides many resources for students to use and learn from. However, it is up to students to put those resources to good use.
What this means is that students must be unusually self-motivated and self-directed to get the most out of the program. Faculty are present, but only as mentors or facilitators. There is no teaching as such, only reading and writing in your chosen field. And do they ever drop you in the middle of the current literature!
If you need the extra support of a face-to-face classroom, then NCU is probably not for you. However, for those who want an affordable and flexible alternative to brick and mortar schools, this may be the one that fits.