Carrie Kordonowy’s children are her primary concern. Anything added to her life had to fit around her responsibilities to them.
“The reality is that I have to pay my bills and be the caregiver for my children. They are top priority, so when a higher education institution realizes this and accepts that, everyone wins,” Kordonowy said. “I have benefited greatly from being able to work school around my schedule, not my schedule around school.”
Richard Treadwell had a busy life and lacked confidence, but still wanted to pursue his dream of working in health care.
“Just the fact that I could do it at home, and get through everything and persevere... and accomplish something is most memorable,” said honors graduate Treadwell, who previously had suppressed his intellectual abilities to fit in with his peers.
When things did not go well for Santa Vigil after her first semester in college, she needed to try something different.
“I took on too much work. I was drowning in my regular every-other-day classes where homework was assigned every day, which caused me to fail,” Vigil said. “I felt that working at my own pace was better than having deadlines so close together.
It’s convenient for people who work full time like myself. I was able to give up Friday night or Saturday morning once a week compared to two to four days a week.
Kordonowy, Treadwell and Vigil had different challenges, but they shared a common goal. Each of them wanted to attend college, but could not do so within the restrictions of traditional face-to-face classes. TCC Connect Campus allowed them to take college classes as their personal schedules permitted.
Established in summer 2013 as an administrative division of TCC, TCC Connect allowed the College to link several existing programs that served non-traditional students, such as e-Learning and Weekend College, at the District level. Its creation continued TCC’s more than 40-year commitment to making it possible for students who could not come to campus to take classes via Instructional Television (ITV). ITV eventually became obsolete because of two major drawbacks: students and instructors could not communicate and the absence of current course materials. Innovative tools developed to serve students more effectively included TCC’s creation of a custom learning management system (LMS). The tools have evolved, and TCC’s dedication to providing access to education in non-traditional ways continues and flourishes.
TCC Connect has experienced rapid growth in its Weekend College program, which began with 69 students in fall 2014. As many as 2,619 students have taken advantage of Weekend College since it became possible for students to earn a degree on the weekend. This accelerated program provides students the opportunity to earn an associate degree in 18 months or fewer in a flexible format that includes online and face-to-face classes. Often, Weekend College is the bridge for traditional students to finish their coursework when face-to-face classes they need are full or not offered at a convenient time.
“Most non-traditional students lead busy lives. The online-Weekend programs allow a student to complete work at any given time they have a free moment. The ability to take two classes at one time in a short hybrid setting allows me to go just as fast as a traditional student without being overwhelmed by multiple classes at one time,” said 2017 graduate Mike Shisler.
Courses are offered in a comprehensible way and do not fluctuate based on enrollment.
“The courses offered for the Weekend College program are structured with a clear path. No guessing as to which class to take. Everything is black and white,” Shisler said. “The last and most beneficial aspect of the Weekend College program is the classes are guaranteed. They do not cancel for low enrollment. As long as I am in the program, my seat in the class is saved.”
He also lauded its structure.
“It is designed to put students together to work through the program. It was nice to walk into a classroom for a new semester and see a lot familiar faces. This situation really took out some of the uneasiness of starting a new class,” Shisler said.
Vigil agreed. “A benefit is definitely the network of the peers you meet. We all come from different backgrounds. It is a great stepping stone for anyone planning on going to a university, wanting to save money or being able to maintain a job at the same time.”
TCC Connect also allows students to pursue their degrees by studying online. eLearning enrollment for the 2016-17 fall and spring semesters reached 21,343, a 35 percent increase over the prior year’s enrollment of 19,518.
“Students continue to be successful in online programs at TCC Connect Campus because we meet the needs of many of today’s students who prefer a learning environment that offers a flexible schedule,” said inaugural TCC Connect President Carlos Morales.
In an era of multitasking, students have a desire to attain higher education, but find that fixed times and fixed space are not conducive to their lifestyle. This is why online education is a suitable choice for these students.
Recent graduate Gloria Rodriguez said eLearning benefits includes students being able to absorb the material at their pace. “If I am watching a video, for example, I can rewind it and review it and review it again if I didn’t get it the first time versus in a classroom. Sometimes if you miss it, you miss it.”
Non-traditional classes are not necessarily the route for everyone.
“It depends on who you are. If you need someone to hold your hand all of the time, then you probably would want on-campus classes,” advises Amanda Richeson-Locker.
However, if you have the drive and discipline required to remain focused, the advice from TCC Connect students essentially is the same: If you want it, you can achieve it.
“If you are ever thinking about getting a degree and you don’t think you have the time or the money or whatever—maybe things are too hectic—doing online courses really does work,” Treadwell said. “There are no excuses to be had when it comes to getting an education. College is at your doorstep, or better yet, at your fingertips.”