What do you think Sierra College will look like ten years from now and what will be the role of the online program?
To answer this question, I’d like to start by referring to the case of National University, a private university that serves mostly graduate students. I’ve taught there for about fifteen years, in the teacher education program. Over the past five years, I’ve watched the onsite classes shrink as well as the building itself–the university recently moved to a smaller facility. Almost all of the classes are being held online now. This saves the students, many of whom work and have families, the difficulty of commuting to classes, and it saves the institution the considerable costs of renting/buying and maintaining the facility.
Is this Sierra College’s destiny? Somehow I doubt it. Sierra tends to serve a younger or less experienced student population. It is a public college with a campus that has a long history. The school, unlike most community colleges, even has dorms. I don’t believe in the foreseeable future the campus will go all or mostly online.
That said, I see online instruction playing a larger and larger role in the future, not just at Sierra, but throughout education in general, and globally. Online classes are no longer the “ugly stepsister” of education but fully and legitimately part of the educational experience. Some students take online classes simply because it’s their preferred learning mode, and they find interacting online easier than face-to-face. Online classes may not replace the traditional classroom at Sierra, but they will take on an equal role, serving those students who either prefer the online experience or find attending a traditional class impractical or difficult, whether it is due to schedule or location.