Centralized Online Learning Operations: Focusing on Student Success and Completion

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session Leadership Community College

Brief Abstract

In 2014 Tarrant County College opened its virtual campus. TCC Connect Campus serves more than 29,000 students through 40 fully online degrees. Operating in a centralized fashion has allowed the campus to grow its enrollment by more than 10% yearly. This session covers an online enterprise's management and its role in student success.


Dr. Carlos R. Morales is the founding President of TCC Connect Campus at Tarrant County College District, a comprehensive two-year institution providing education to more than 100,000 students annually. As president he manages, directs, and implements TCC policies, programs, and operating strategies for Distance Learning, and Weekend College initiatives for the College. Dr. Morales has extensive online and classroom teaching experience in the areas of Biology, Science Teaching, Education and Instructional Technology. Dr. Morales has published internationally peer-reviewed journal articles on the topics of instructional technology. Morales graduated from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, with bachelors and masters degrees in Biology and Science Education, and received his doctorate, with a dissertation on Constructivist Learning Environments in Online Course Design, from Capella University. He was a Frye fellow in 2009 and in 2012 the American Association of State Colleges and Universities named him a Millennium Leadership Fellow.

Extended Abstract

Tarrant County College opened its virtual campus in 2014, the only one of its kind in Texas. TCC Connect Campus is the sixth campus of the college that offers eLearning, a Weekend College, and accelerated programs; it serves an enrollment of more than 29,000 students every semester and offers 40 fully online degrees. While the debate —before and after the pandemic— about the attributes of centralized versus decentralized online education continues, the campus has become a model of innovation, quality, entrepreneurship, and student success in less than ten years. The pandemic has made the debate about viability, efficiency, and student outcomes in fully online programs irrelevant. TCC Connect Campus uses a centralized approach to manage the online enterprise. Empowered by college policy, we are responsible for program development, schedule building, faculty hiring and training, and student services, allowing a more agile response to student needs. Since its early days, the campus has embraced innovation, agility, creativity, and a growth mindset, increasing its enrollment to more than 10% yearly. Boasting a success rate above 76% and a retention rate of 90%, the online campus continues to advance while refining its operations through ten initiatives. The online campus of Tarrant County College has been recognized at the national and regional levels, including being selected as the Top Online College in the United States in 2020. For us at the TCC Connect Campus, data utilization is paramount to the success of the students, the faculty, and the operation. Through carefully constructed specifications, data is used to guide planning, work plans, and operations and forecast the growth the campus may experience during the following academic year. 

Since Fall of 2020, the college has been addressing students’ preferences captured in two annual surveys. The study measured the interest and aptitude of students toward the three modalities that exist at TCC face-to-face, online and blended. Online learning has recorded an increase since the first survey, placing it at 29%. Making these preferences visible has provided the campus with a more prominent role in supporting student success; akin to learning styles, students’ preferences indicate the favored way they want to attend college.

The Weekend College is unique to TCC Campus and is designed to help students attain a higher education credential in 18 months or less. Using a highly prescribed model to course scheduling and student registration, the program offers courses every seven weeks in a hybrid modality. With an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students every semester, they enroll in two classes —Fridays or Saturdays—allowing them to progress through their associate's degree without the risk of taking more classes than they should. The success of the TCC Connect Campus weekend college has been noticed by area universities, which have developed bachelor’s degree programs aligned with the exit dates every seven weeks. To date, the Weekend College has served over 6,000 students. This session will discuss the management of a centralized online enterprise, course design, program development, faculty development, data utilization, and student support services for online students.