Pierce Online: The Future of education

Christina Colucci / Roundup

Shop, find a date, order food— almost anything can be done online these days, even earn¬ing a college degree.

Members of “Generation Y,” which is trademarked by the sudden boom of the Internet, have been wooed by hav¬ing the world at their fingertips. Now that much of “Y” has reached college, the popularity of online classes is growing.

Pierce College stu¬dent and single mother Cyrene Layne, 26, cred¬its online classes with enabling her to go to school.

“I’m always busy with my daughter and work,” she said. “Online classes allow time to earn a degree because I can do it from my computer, at work or while my daughter is there.”

Many students like Web-based classes because they never have to set foot on campus.
Nilouflower Khalighi, a business major attending Pierce, said she likes online classes because she is “able to work at [her] own pace from the com¬fort of [her] home.”

Cynthia Alexander, a Pierce Online staff member, noted that some of the online students are in Iraq, but still taking classes at Pierce.

“The TV station will make them feel part of campus life,” she said.

For others, the lack of face-to-face instruction is a turnoff to online courses.

“I tried to take a class online once,” said Nicholas Assad, a business major. “When I went to add it to my schedule, I couldn’t find it anywhere on the Web and gave up.”

Pierce launched Pierce Online early last month to assist with problems such as Assad’s.

According to Pierce Online staff member Michael Cooperman, Pierce Online, which can be reached at online.piercecollege.edu or linked to from the Pierce homepage, is a Web-portal set up to be a “one-stop shop” that helps students and faculty with the technicalities of online classes.

“Our goal is to make the site known college-wide as the face of the online community and the destination for students and faculty to receive all the information they need regarding online courses,” Cooperman said.

Cooperman explained that Pierce Online is not a place for students to contact their instructors.

“It is technical support,” he said. “Students can ask questions pertaining to technical aspects of online classes, such as, ‘Why can’t I log in?’ ‘How come my password is not working?’ and ‘How can I contact my instructor?”

The site features access to tutorials, course schedules and links to classes.

Online economics professor Pamela Brown said, “Not everyone is suited for an online class.”

“[Web-based classes] lack external motivation and discipline,” she said. “Many students are not self-motivated and tend to procrastinate when it comes to studying in an online environment.”

The Web-portal has addressed concerns like Brown’s by setting up a student workshop that assesses stu¬dents to see if they are a good fit for an online course.

Pierce Online, which is sponsored by a U.S. Department of Education Title V (Hispanic Serving Institution) Cooperative grant, is still in the works.

“I don’t believe a Web site is ever completely finished,” Cooperman said. “It’s always evolving.”

It will soon expand to include a dif¬ferent animated character on every page that provides resources and tutorials, student spotlights where they share their online-course experiences and a Pierce Online television station.

Cooperman said the TV station will be broad¬cast on the site “to appeal to online students who may never actually see the campus.”

“Each week we will feature a two- to five-minute Web show that highlights a different area or event,” he said.

Cooperman said, adding the TV station and the entire site is another way to stay on the “cutting edge.”

“We designed it to appeal to stu¬dents in a more innovative, high-tech and professional way,” he said.

Brown feels online classes do just that.

“Web-based classes give all students another avenue to access and review course material,” she said, adding that the classes also give teachers “new tech¬nologies and methods for making course topics fun and interesting.”

Both Pierce Online staff mem¬bers and Brown predict that as future generations become more Web-savvy, online classes will continue to gain popularity.

“We are here because we want to help students succeed,” Cooperman said.



Phaedra Kossow-Quinn, 25, uses the Pierce College library computers to research information on the internet and to check her email. She is an ASL Interpreting Program major. (Petrina J. Roudebush / Roundup)

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