Online Learning in Community Colleges

Authored by: Shanna Smith Jaggars

Handbook of Distance Education

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415897648
eBook ISBN: 9780203803738
Adobe ISBN: 9781136635571


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Public community colleges educate more than 7 million students per year, comprising over 40% of postsecondary enrollments (U.S. Department of Education, 2011a). As open-access institutions, community colleges strive to provide opportunities to a wide variety of students, many of whom cannot afford the cost or time required to attend traditional four-year colleges. Compared with public four-year institutions, community college students are more likely to be 25 or older, to attend school part-time, and to be employed full-time (U.S. Department of Education, 2011b). The majority of students entering community college are also academically underprepared in English or mathematics (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006; Bailey, Jeong, & Cho, 2010), for a variety of reasons: some were poorly-served by their high school education; some are recent immigrants who need assistance with English reading and writing skills; and some are older students who have been away from school for an extended period and have forgotten much of the content they once learned. Moreover, the majority of community college students are the first in their family to attend college (Choy, 2001), and as such, may have a limited understanding of how to navigate the cultural and logistical barriers of higher education, including how to be successful in college-level coursework (e.g., see Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2004; Rosenbaum, Deil-Amen, & Person, 2006).

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