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Online classes, meant for relief, have own hurdles

GCC offers Web-based courses to deal with overcrowding, but some hold-ups are spurring scrutiny of them.

September 04, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com

Pedro Kim has yet to begin his student development class. The course is almost entirely online, and while the rest of his students were almost one week into their school routine at Glendale Community College, Kim is being left behind.

"I haven't had the orientation yet," he said Friday. "I can't log on until we've had [that]."

The mandatory face-to-face orientation and classroom final that are required for all classes have stymied Glendale Community College officials as they look for new ways to reach students through online courses, while easing the overcrowding issues of having so many bodies on the campus.

The regulations have drawn scrutiny and become an object of scorn among some college board trustees, administrators, students and faculty members who see it as a strait jacket.

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"It defeats the purpose of an online class," said Janet Shamilian, president of student government and the student trustee. "I don't see the reasoning behind it. I've heard from students they'd rather have it be totally online."

Demand for entirely online classes continues to surge, but the mandatory orientation and a hiring freeze have capped Glendale Community College's capability to grow student enrollment through the World Wide Web.

"It all has this synergy together that makes [expansion] really challenging," said Shereen Allison, the college's associate dean for instructional technology. "Online has its own set of issues and challenges and I think we're moving in the right direction."

But some instructors are opposed to online instruction as it could dilute higher education.

"The faculty opinion is across the board from 'No we shouldn't go that way,' to 'Yes we should go that way,'" said Michael Scott, president of the Academic Senate. "Everybody has their own opinion as to the quality and success of online courses."

Budget cut stalemate

With no state budget in sight, college officials have begun circling the mandatory face-to-face rule as a way to further expand college access.

"I think we probably would've turned the corner a year, or two years, ago," Allison said. "The budget's been so difficult the last few years for every program that there's not a real growth mode right now."

Many students flocking to community colleges are beyond the typical 18- to 22-year-old. Many are seeking employable skills, or struggling to balance class with work and family commitments.

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