Lone Star College, a large community college system in Houston, Texas, is launching this summer a new online collegecalled LSC-Online, a move its vice-chancellor said trustees had been discussing for more than six years.
The system’s eighth college targets students who want to learn entirely online, said Seelpa Keshvala, CEO and vice-chancellor of the new college. That includes military, overseas, and possibly international students who want to earn an associate’s degree completely online, she said.
LSC-Online is expected to offer more than 30 programs and three online transfer degrees this fall, each designed so students can easily continue to other institutions.
The system, which enrolls about 74,000 students, has already dedicated time and resources to online programs, first using the LSC-Online name in 2009 to host its additional online courses, Keshvala said – but the new Completely online college should build on that. success by examining online learning approaches, improving associate degree programs, and researching new programs that lend themselves to an online format.
Lone Star College is one of two community college systems that serve the Houston area. The other is the Houston Community College system, which runs HCC Online. HCC Online is the third largest online community college in the United States, according to its website.
“The time had come”
Around 680 students are already registered to take courses at LSC-Online when it launches in August. Keshvala said LSC saw online registration even before the coronavirus pandemic forced all classes online, but the change has prompted more students to consider taking classes fully online after classes resumed. in-person lessons.
“It became even clearer that the time had come for us to move forward with this plan,” she said.
As of last fall, more than half of LSC students had taken at least one course online, and about a third had taken courses entirely online. LSC-Online relies heavily on the foundations of the community college system already built for online classes, with the goal of operating “relatively lean” as an online campus, Keshvala said.
Keshvala said LSC-Online adds about $2 million to the system’s budget, mostly for staff. More than 100 professors have applied and about 40 professors are now transferring from LSC to teach entirely online, she said, and those professors are now working with instructional designers who work on online programs.
“Not all faculty members knew it was a resource,” Keshvala said. “So now [we] partner instructional designers with our faculty and work to create easy-to-navigate online courses for students. From what students have told us anecdotally, an online course is difficult to navigate. They all look a little different. We want our courses to be easy for students to navigate and have a distinctive look. »
Not a “descending college”
About three-quarters of community college students said in a survey published this week they would like to have the option of taking certain courses entirely online.
In addition to providing students with a new opportunity, the LSC-Online campus has also allowed the college system to review the software it uses to enhance or monitor online courses, such as online proctoring software, said Keshvala. She said the LSC system subscribed to an automated monitoring solution, but professors said reviewing the tests flagged by the software was taking too long.
Considering new approaches to online classes involves engaging faculty at LSC-Online, but also talking to faculty at other campuses who teach online classes, Keshvala said.
“Our whole philosophy with launching this college is that it’s not going to be a top-down college,” she said. “It will be something that our faculty, our leaders here will work alongside our support team and share best practices, and then how to spread those best practices to the rest of our faculty through the system that teaches online classes.”