Even when Jefferson College student Nicole Garner is not sitting in a classroom, she still could be taking a course at the school’s Hillsboro campus.
She simply needs a computer and online access.
"I do the majority of my courses in class, but have taken some online courses," she said. "I spend time between classes doing my online work."
Because the 19-year-old student lives a 35-minute drive away in Bloomsdale in Ste. Genevieve County, she said that classes on the Internet allow her to maximize her time in school.
"There are advantages and disadvantages to online courses," Garner said. "I like being in class better. But as far as flexibility, I enjoy that more with the online courses. Especially over the summer, it’s much easier than having to commute."
Online courses can be as unlike one another as courses taught in classrooms can be, she said.
"Each teacher is different," Garner said. "I’ve had a political science class where the professor posted a recorded lecture. After viewing a class, you’d have to answer critical-thinking questions about it.
"In another one, a physical science class, I felt it was easier for me online than on campus because I was able to work at my own pace."
Garner is far from alone in pursuing a degree, at least in part online, according to Jefferson College officials.
Linda Bigelow, dean of learning resources, spoke of the boom in that form of learning through the institution, which has an enrollment of about 5,800 students.
"This fall, our number of students taking courses online increased by about 30 percent over last fall," she said. "That brings it to about 1,300 students for the fall. For the year – fall, spring and summer semesters – we have about 3,400 students who take online courses each year."
"They are so popular, we add more courses and sections every year."
Bigelow said about 75 percent of the Jefferson College students who utilize online courses also take courses at one of the school’s campuses.
Tuition is the same for online and on-campus courses
"This is a way for them to fit more courses into their schedules," Bigelow said. "It helps them fit their courses into their work schedules."
While flexibility is one reason why more people are enrolled in online courses, the economic climate also makes online learning attractive to many, Bigelow said.
Those thinking of taking courses online should be prepared to work as hard as they would inside a campus building.
"The level of difficulty is considered the same, if not harder, than on campus," she said. "Students have told us this through surveys."
Garner said she would encourage others to pursue their studies through online courses.
"It’s been a very positive experience," she said. "I’ve felt I’ve learned a lot and it’s been easier to learn."