No longer left behind, those students now find they can earn the hours they need through online education.
There are a number of challenges non-traditional students face when it comes to taking college classes or earning a degree in a campus environment. Working full-time limits availability, especially for those running small businesses or raising families. Prospective students may find traveling to a college campus impracticable or downright impossible if they don’t live nearby.
The demands are not necessarily new and colleges and universities have sought solutions for decades. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay initiated its Adult Degree Program to offer classes that would be more accommodating, and as technologies have evolved, so have the options.
“We started doing classes that were weekends and hybrids, and then through the years, as technology advanced, we started incorporating more of the technology into classes,” says Christina Trombley, director of UWGB’s Adult Degree Program. “It was just the natural progression of trying to continually serve this adult population.”
Eventually, the Adult Degree Program developed to include degrees that were fully online as well.
Online education has become an integral component to the region’s educational offerings. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has also put a lot of effort into developing its online programs. The program at UWO evolved from the university’s Evening and Degree program from the 1970s, says Charles Hill, director of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement.
Utilizing the UW Colleges’ online courses, the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley offers students the ability to earn an associate degree of Arts and Science online, providing them with general education requirements for a four-year degree anywhere in the UW system.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College utilizes online and blended classes for working adults, accommodating a wide variety of needs. Fox Valley Technical College offers APICS CPIM certification (for jobs in production and inventory control management) through an online classroom format.
St. Norbert College on the other hand, takes a different approach. Instead of offering classes and degrees completely online, the college integrated online tools to enhance its current programs. Using these tools, professors post lectures, presentations and other class-specific resources online for students’ digestion.
Wherever the learning occurs, students have found that online education has a lot to offer.
“People are often surprised because they think that an online course is where a professor just puts the work up and then goes away, and then the students teach themselves,” Hill says. “Ours isn’t like that. Students have to log on at least a couple of times a week to keep up, and they have a lot of interaction online with the instructor and with the other students. So I think that’s very important.”