How Can We Meet the Unique Challenges of Community Colleges in the Online Environment?


Dena Coots, Director of Distance Education/Instructional Design, Alvin Community College, Texas

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How Can We Meet the Unique Challenges of Community Colleges in the Online Environment? Find Out In Our New Workshop, DEVELOPING ONLINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE PROGRAMS, Starting February 27!



Online education is rapidly expanding as a preferred delivery mode for both faculty and students. Most colleges and universities are working to make at least some of their courses and programs available in this flexible format, and community colleges are no exception! However many community colleges do not have the same resources available to larger, private institutions. How can community colleges remain a viable option and develop appealing courses in this rapidly changing landscape?

The importance of community colleges has been a topic of recent conversation, even at the national level, as President Obama has proposed a plan for free community college tuition. This focus of attention will certainly have many looking at the quality of our community college programs, and put added pressure on administrators to make sure they are getting the logistics of their approach to online learning right.

Dena Coots is well versed in the challenges facing community colleges as they move to offer courses online. As the Director of Distance Education and Instructional Design at Alvin Community College in Houston, Texas, she has developed a process and a system for moving courses and programs into the online delivery format. Dena has designed this workshop for the Online Learning Consortium, offered for the first time from February 27 – March 6, 2015, to share her experiences with other community college faculty and administrators in the hopes of contributing to the quality of these programs. We spoke with Dena to find out why this workshop is so valuable right now.

Why is the topic of “Developing Online Community College Programs” so important?

DENA: As institutions of higher education continue to expand their distance education offerings to provide alternative learning opportunities for their students, they find new challenges that require careful planning and preparation to develop online learning courses of high quality that will attract students. The needs of the community college are unique. It is imperative that each institution have predictable, well-outlined plans for how courses are developed if they are to maintain a competitive edge in the current market.

What do you hope participants take away from this workshop?

DENA: Participants of this workshop will compare course development plans from various institutions and create their own customized plan for developing online courses based on the unique needs of their home institution.

Who should take this workshop?

DENA: Instructional designers, Subject matter experts interested in developing online courses, Distance education leaders, E-learning experts and administrators responsible for distance learning administration

Please visit our website to register for Developing Online Community College Programs on February 27!

Dena Coots

Dena Coots is the current Director of Distance Education/Instructional Design at Alvin Community College in Texas. She holds degrees in music (1998, College of the Mainland), interdisciplinary studies (2000, University of Houston Clear Lake), and Instructional Technology (2008, University of Houston Clear Lake). She has worked in higher education for the past 20 years and higher education specifically for the past 10.

She is very active in the distance learning community and has presented at many distance learning conferences including TxDLA, USDLA, WebCT Texas, Blackboard World, and HumBug. She has been a Horizon Wimba guest speaker and is 2014 alumnus of the Institute for Engaged Leadership in Online Learning. One unique perspective that she brings to distance education is that she has experience with distance education as a student, instructor, designer, and administrator. Her areas of expertise include instructional design, LMS administration both front and back end, pedagogy for adult learning, e-learning, planning and development of e-learning courses and programs. Some of her accomplishments include ACC Foundation Excellence Award, two time recipient of the Innovative Grant for technology, Teacher of the Year for the Santa Fe Independent School district, Sallie Graff Educational Leadership Award recipient, and Recognition in Texas City Sun as “Sun Classroom Champion.” She is very passionate about distance education and the unique niche that it fills in aiding others to achieve their educational goals and is excited to be a part of the ever challenging and changing role of distance education.

Blog Post Authored By:

Kristen Bourgault

As an instructional designer for the past 15 years, Kristen Bourgault has developed a talent for facilitating the development of high quality online courses and programs in higher education. From designing the navigational structure of the very first online courses at Simmons College to establishing a process for ensuring quality throughout the entire curriculum for a fully online, for-profit University, Kristen has a vast range of experience in developing effective online learning solutions. As an instructional design consultant, Kristen has assisted faculty at Lesley University, Quinnipiac University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Southern New Hampshire University. She holds a firm interest in the next generation of online teaching and learning, with a focus on gamification, social media, and student engagement. In her current role, she brings the same level of quality assurance to the professional development workshops offered by the Online Learning Consortium. 

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