Distance learning courses now account for over 9% of all course registrations at Genesee Community College, or nearly 4,000 course registrations, Robert G. Knipe, Dean of Learning Technologies reported to the College's Board of Trustees this Monday evening.Distance learning has been growing at the rate of 20% to 25% each year at Genesee. Growth in distance learning registrations reflects Genesee's efforts to make higher education more accessible, and distance learning takes advantage of the College's substantial expertise in instructional technology, Dean Knipe said.The term "distance learning" covers many formats. For example, it can include courses featuring lectures cablecast on television, or courses using real-time interactive video to link students at multiple locations. But more often, distance learning courses are "online," incorporating computer-based instruction, online discussion groups, links to content-relevant websites, research and application, and individualized assignments, as well as conventional textbooks, exams, and field work. Distance learning courses cover the same content as courses offered in conventional classrooms. They use the same textbooks and are taught by the same instructors, except that students completing courses in distance learning formats come to campus rarely - if ever.Most students who register for distance learning courses are seeking schedule convenience, according to Dean Knipe. Some are Genesee students who complete most of their courses in the classroom. "These students usually seek out distance learning because it's a convenient way to fulfill a course requirement," he said. More commonly, however, distance learning students are individuals who have inflexible work or family schedules, or who cannot travel to a distant campus. "We serve primarily working adult students who cannot attend traditional classes because their work shifts, family obligations, and life challenges change constantly," Dean Knipe said. "We serve students who live quite a distance from Batavia or a Genesee campus center. In fact, many of our distance learners live out of state or even abroad."
Over the 2004-2005 academic year, Genesee offered 160 sections of 80 different courses in distance learning format. Twenty-nine faculty members have completed in-depth training in distance learning course development. "These faculty members are well-prepared to teach online, or even to develop 'hybrid' courses that encompass some classroom-based instruction and some distance instruction," Dean Knipe said. The College's "Virtually Everyone" project has streamlined College business processes and online services that accommodate the unique needs of distance learners. Said Dean Knipe: "For example, we're very good at offering online instruction, but what about distance learning students who want to participate in co-curricular activities online? One of our big challenges is to incorporate as many non-instructional support services and as much of the educational experience as possible, in online formats."Three years ago, the New York State Education Department recognized Genesee Community College's expertise in distance learning and granted the College the right to use a "fast-track" approval process for degree programs offered online. Since that time, Genesee has been authorized to offer 23 different degree and certificate programs with the majority of coursework completed online, and seven degree programs with 100% of coursework completed online.Distance learning is still in its infancy in many colleges and universities, according to Dean Knipe. "With our expertise in technology, distance learning has become highly institutionalized at Genesee. Our expectation is that a growing number and diversity of students will use distance learning at Genesee to complete their college degree. We are ready to serve them."For further information on Distance Learning, contact Robert Knipe, Dean of Learning Technologies at 585-343-0055 Ext. 6595. # # #