What Alamo Colleges students love most about online learning

October 21, 2020

1080x1080-IsmaelAlatorreSAC.jpgIsmael Alatorre is a peace officer, a musician, a valued community member, and an advocate for the online learning experience as a current fully online student at San Antonio College—one of our five Alamo Colleges. Like many other adult learners, he returned to school after twenty-two years to meet his professional goals of becoming a supervisor or criminal investigator. Once enrolled in online courses in the Criminal Justice program, he discovered the many benefits of online learning, particularly its flexibility and opportunity to engage in rich discussions with his instructors and classmates.

There are various reasons students choose to earn their degree online at our Alamo Colleges. Some pursue education out of necessity while others earn their degree for personal reasons. Ismael is fortunate in that he doesn’t necessarily “need” a degree for career success but has the opportunity to pursue an education out of intellectual curiosity and personal investment. Thus far, Ismael has completed two online courses and plans on carrying a full course load next semester.

“Education makes me more valuable,” he explains. “I’m just trying to get more enrichment for myself, to make things easier, and get a chance at a higher level.” Ideally, he hopes to become a supervisor or work in administration, and he is well on his way.

Ismael identifies “flexibility” and “good communication skills” as two main benefits for online learning. Coincidentally, “flexibility” was also noted in Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s Priorities Survey of Online Learners conducted in January 2020. The survey provided concrete insights and evidence about students’ online learning experience at our Alamo Colleges. For example, what do current students enjoy most about online learning, and how do they rate the quality of online instruction? Do students find the tuition cost a worthwhile investment? Answers to these questions give voice to students’ praises and concerns about online learning and identify specific improvement areas at our Alamo Colleges. The survey results and a follow-up interview with current students show that, above all, they love the flexibility, the opportunities for enrichment, and the meaningful discussions that take place in their online classes.

With a friendly expression and zero hesitation, Ismael explains that he chose online learning for its flexibility and convenience. “I chose online learning for the flexibility with my job. I can get in and get out of work and then go home, rest, and do my school work. Sitting in a class for two or three hours just doesn’t work for me and my schedule.”

Online learning is designed to permit students the freedom to complete their coursework when it’s most convenient for them, which is a significant factor in why students often choose online learning. Many online students balance work and family obligations with their education and, like Ismael, incorporate their online coursework when they can be most productive.

Online learning also permits the flexibility of location, allowing students like Ismael to complete assignments in creative ways and places, whether sitting in their cars during the lunch hour or at a local park (while practicing social distancing, of course). For Ismael, the flexibility of location is an essential factor. “I can learn where I want. I can even do my work at a park, or anywhere with an Internet connection.”

Ismael notes that he particularly enjoyed the discussion portions of his two Criminal Justice courses. When asked why he found them so engaging, he shares, “Through a narrative point of view, I can communicate and share what I believe in.” In the wake of COVID-19, political upheaval, and protests, online discussions allow all students the chance to voice their insights. Ismael believes that “online learning will help him be successful” and encourages others to give online learning a try.

We are passionate about providing exceptional online learning opportunities that educate and empower students. From flexibility to meaningful discussions, there is a lot to love about online learning at our five Alamo Colleges.

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AlamoONLINE represents the range of opportunities for students pursuing degrees, certificates, or other offerings delivered 100% online from Northeast Lakeview College, Northwest Vista College, Palo Alto College, San Antonio College, and St. Philip’s College.

At our Alamo Colleges, a 100% online degree, certificate, other offering, or Transfer Advising Guide (TAG) has all courses offered fully online and does not require students to come on campus or to an external site except for required proctored exams or to participate in a clinical, internship, cooperative education, or practicum site.