Online enrollment peaks at Palo Alto

By Ryan Carreon
Pulse Staff Reporter

Information provided by Pedro Hinojosa, Director of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness.

Online enrollment for students at Palo Alto College continues to climb as more students prefer to learn online.

According to Anita C. Soliz, online learning coordinator for Alamo Colleges Online, the number of students taking at least one online class from all of the Alamo Colleges rose from 16,988 students in fall 2013 to 20,044 in fall 2014.

“This isn’t the future, it’s the present,” said Associate Professor Peter Myers, who teaches history at Palo Alto.

Myers began teaching at Palo Alto in January of 1988. He said he has noticed a higher success rate of students in his online courses. Myers makes history interesting by including essay subjects closely related to his students’ majors and through his Oral History Project, where students interview people who lived during a certain era of history.

“The students are the customers,” said Myers, referring to student preference of how they want to attend their classes. This spring semester, 93 percent of online history courses offered had sufficient enrollment while only 24 percent of history courses offered in the classroom did.

According to information provided by Pedro Hinojosa, director of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness, the success rate of online courses rose from 66.8 percent in Fall 2010 to 73.6 percent in Fall 2013. The online course completion rate also rose, from 82.2 percent in Fall 2010 to 91 percent in 2013, which was higher than the face-to-face completion rate of 90.5 percent.

“I’ve been taking online classes since I started college at both Northwest Vista and Palo Alto,” said Pre-Nursing Sophomore Emanuel Hernandez. “It’s definitely great for someone like me who works full time during the week and has to balance not only school with work but also family and a girlfriend and also try to have some downtime.”

Convenience is a factor for many students who live far from campus or have busy lives consumed by work and family. With online courses, the student dictates his or her class schedule. Although there is the convenience of scheduling when a student can attend their class online, it’s the student’s self-discipline in completing his or her coursework on time that will hinder his or her success.

Maturity is a factor that determines a student’s success online, according to Myers, who noted that with new students who take online courses, he has seen a lower success rate for those just out of high school compared to students who might be in their early twenties or older.

Palo Alto gives students the resources it can to help students succeed in the classroom and online. The Canvas mobile app and free Microsoft Office 365 for current students with a student email are two examples of resources that are readily available.

In a world that is broadly digital, it is no wonder that an increasing number of college courses are being offered online. The shift from physical to online attendance may be a sign of the times for how students prefer to learn.