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GCC weaves Web presence

Teachers worry plans to expand online classes may hurt quality of education.

July 21, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Glendale Community College instructors on Monday warned against loosening rules that require face time with students amid a Board of Trustees plan to keep the college competitive in online education.

The warnings came as a consensus among the Board of Trustees emerged Monday that Glendale Community College is behind its competitors in accommodating students in the virtual classroom.

The college offers no classes that are purely through the Internet. Every course requires a face-to-face orientation, at minimum, which is a policy trustees might strike.

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Online courses with more than 51% of the instruction delivered electronically represent 14% of the student body, said Shereen Allison, the associate dean of instructional technology.

"We're very much on par with what's going on in the state," she said.

But trustees said there is room for growth.

At nearby College of the Canyons and East Los Angeles College, students can earn their degree entirely online, which has been convenient for many in public service. Online for-profit institutions like University of Phoenix also have opportunities Glendale Community College does not.

"I get this feeling that somehow we're falling behind here," trustee Vahe Peroomian said. "We're trying to reinvent the wheel."

How far Glendale Community College ought to invest in online and distance-learning programs is an ongoing conversation, officials said. But faculty members made clear that their priority is to ensure quality in the programs.

"I want to make sure the board understands — I have this feeling you are starting a vision of turning Glendale college into a lower version of University of Phoenix, and there's no support for such a concept," said Michael Scott, president of the Academic Senate. "Quality versus quantity, quality versus money, is where the senate position is on this."

Peroomian disputed that characterization, but said he was speaking from years of experience teaching online courses at UCLA and with the University of Phoenix.

A survey of students last school year indicated many enrolled in online classes because of scheduling reasons, Allison said.

"You have to stay on target, and you have to be really good at time management," she said. "I think that's really key. A lot of times people perceive you take online courses because it's very easy, but we're seeing the opposite."

Trudi Abram said putting her general education art history course online took some trial and error, but she's now a convert to online education.

"The students who take this class, it really is for mature students who know how to manage their time," she said. "The best students are always the ones who are a little more mature and have been out in the world and realize it's going to be hard. And they can do it at 2 a.m. if they want to."

Janet Shamilian, the student representative on the Board of Trustees, said moving toward classes that are 100% online has students' support.

College instructors are waiting for direction on expanding their current offerings into more sections, or growing new programs online, Allison said.

"We have an investment, we have been doing this, and we've been doing it successfully," she said. "Now we need to position and decide where we want to go."

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