Published: January 11, 2010
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – When Navy Reservist David Fraley received orders to go to Kuwait, he wasn’t ready to stop attending class at Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC). With help from Assistant Professor of English Diana Martin, Fraley interacted in real-time with TNCC students in ENG 262: Creative Writing, a class held at the Historic Triangle campus in Williamsburg. When the class convened at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, it was 3 a.m. on Wednesday in Kuwait.
Fraley is one of the many students at TNCC who employ distance learning tools. The College delivers distance education through several means including podcasting, Blackboard and Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, a software that allows instructors and students to interact live and facilitate distance classes in real-time. The software permits the use of Microsoft PowerPoint slides, application sharing, as well as live and recorded video, among other things.
In a recent survey conducted by TNCC’s Information Technology department, 3,175 students polled indicated that they rely on technology in pursuit of their education. A majority of the full-time and part-time students responding to the survey are technologically savvy and are using technology that includes personal computers, cell phones, and iPods for research, online news, downloading music, emails, social networking and texting.
Approximately 75 percent of the respondents use Blackboard frequently to access course syllabi and contact information. Nearly 67 percent use Blackboard frequently as an online conferencing tool to interact with instructors.
A general Studies student at TNCC, Fraley enrolled at the College in 2007 and attended most of his classes at the Historic Triangle campus before his deployment. He was grateful for the opportunity to see his classmates in Williamsburg and continue his education while fulfilling his military obligations. He hopes to return to the United States and major in Writing and Economics at a four-year institution after completing his degree at TNCC. “Attending (class) has helped keep my goals focused on academics and focused on what I will do after this mobilization,” Fraley said.
“David [was] right there in the classroom participating in discussion and sharing his poems and stories just like the rest of the students. He [appeared] on a large screen so everyone can see and hear him. I turn the camera on other students as they speak or read their work, and David is able to see and hear them. A totally normal classroom atmosphere is created,” Martin said.
Martin was thrilled about the ability to expose students to lecturers internationally and the chance to offer the in-class TNCC experience to students abroad. Fraley has been encouraged by the positive experience and plans to consider distance learning again if his military service takes him away from the College’s service area. Fraley’s presence encourages the students to perform well. “By observing David’s dedication to education, the other students in class become more committed to their pursuit of knowledge,” Martin said.
Fraley’s response to the technology has offered an immediate reward for Martin. “David has repeatedly said that the three hours per week when he connects with our creative writing class are the high point of his week. He has also said that our class and the writing he does for it are what keep him sane during his deployment. What greater accomplishment can a college class attain?”
As the popularity of online classes continues to grow, TNCC keeps pace having added two programs to enhance training opportunities for distance learning instructors – the Teaching Online Program (TOP) and the Instructional Design for Online Learning (IDOL).
Developed by several instructional designers in Virginia’s Community Colleges, including TNCC Director of Distance Learning Ruth Smith, TOP is taught completely online and delves into several strategies for effective online teaching. Launched last summer, IDOL teaches instructors how to design online classes.
For more information about distance learning at TNCC, please contact Smith at 825-2807.
|Category: General News, Student Information||Tags: classes, distance learning|