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Learning While Earning

Learning While Earning

Go to school while holding down a full-time job? The Juggle is real.


Jeanna Fung first enrolled in college in 1987. Almost 30 years later, she earned her degree at Tarrant County College.

“I come from a line of blue-collar workers, and no one in my family had attended college,” shares Fung. “During my first experience with college, I failed most of the only semester I was ever enrolled. I’m pretty sure it was Fs across the board since I didn’t take the time to drop the classes. Shortly afterward, I got married and had a family.”

All the busyness of life took over; as her children grew up, though, Fung didn’t forget about her own education. She wanted to give college another go, but she believed it would be difficult—she was working full time and couldn’t spend multiple days on campus every week.

“I had envisioned that it would be a five-year process because I intended to take only a class or two at a time,” she says. “But then I found out about Weekend College.”

TCC’s Weekend College allows students to attend classes on campus or virtually just one day a week; the rest of the coursework can be completed online. That changed everything for Fung, who calls the program the “motivating factor” that finally got her back in college.

“Weekend College was compact and attainable,” she says. “I sat down with an advisor and charted a workable path.”

Weekend College is part of TCC Connect, which manages the College’s full range of eLearning. TCC Connect programs are designed to help students accelerate their degree completion options while balancing work, family and other responsibilities. The campus offers courses in dozens of fields, with various start dates throughout each semester.

“TCC Connect is student-centric by creating schedules that meet the needs of students,” notes Audra Barrett, director of Weekend College. “It offers convenience and flexibility to those who wish to determine a time and place of their own to study.”

That approach is extremely valuable, with so many TCC students trying to achieve their educational goals while managing competing obligations. Based on estimates from the 2019 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) survey, 37 percent of TCC students work more than 30 hours a week, and 17 percent spent more than 30 hours a week caring for their family. For them, a non-traditional approach to college is often the key to success.

Thank Goodness It’s Friday (and Saturday)

Weekend College students attend their courses at set times either at TCC Trinity River in downtown Fort Worth or virtually; classes meet on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings and early afternoons. The program makes it possible for students to finish their associate degree in 18 months or fewer.

The options provide each student flexibility, balance and the opportunity to learn in the way that’s best for them: fully online from the convenience of home or any other location, or with an on-campus experience. Fung enjoyed being on campus (she was an officer in Phi Theta Kappa honor society and participated in TCC service projects) but also greatly benefited from the online aspects of the program. “I could replay, reread or rehear content if I didn’t grasp the concept the first time around,” says Fung. “If you’re not a good notetaker, or your comprehension—like mine—is diminished from being tired from the workday, a student could easily be overwhelmed. Online delivery gives some wiggle room for self-paced study, and the online classroom is open around the clock.”

Through Weekend College, students can earn an Associate of Arts, or complete core courses and other classes that will go toward an Associate of Science or an accounting clerk certification. “The focus is always on helping students complete the educational goals they have set, whatever they may be,” says Barrett.

Fung earned her Associate of Arts, with honors, as a member of Weekend College’s first graduating class in 2016.

Over the years, Weekend College has experienced significant growth. It began with just over 100 students in fall 2014; a total of 5,892 students have now taken advantage of the program, with a retention rate of 89.9 percent.

Barrett expects enrollment and success rates to continue to grow as Weekend College adds new courses, certifications and options. To guide these expansion decisions, administrators like Barrett monitor economic and demographic data. In addition, Weekend College is working toward establishing even more flexible programs in which students can transition seamlessly between online and on-campus learning within a single course. There also are plans to develop learning communities that will enhance peer support. “Our goal is to meet student and business needs to supply the community with certifications and programs that allow students to earn a livable wage,” says Barrett.

College did more than provide professional security and growth for Fung, who maintained her position in Tarrant County Juvenile Services throughout her studies. “Weekend College opened the doors to the world of higher education, how the world works and where I fit in,” she reflects. With her associate degree in hand, Fung plans to continue to advance in her career and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Virtual Learning, Real Success

While some may think of eLearning as a relatively new development that came along with high-speed internet and more affordable computers, TCC has been providing learning at a distance since 1973. That fall, the College offered two courses via instructional television, with almost 800 students enrolling. By 1989, the earliest iterations of online courses began. Today, TCC has one of the largest eLearning programs in the state. As the pandemic increased the need for and interest in remote opportunities, eLearning enrollment has continued to flourish.

TCC’s online offerings extend beyond Weekend College. In fact, students can enroll in Weekend College at the same time as other virtual classes to put their completion on an even faster track. Unlike the virtual courses in Weekend College—which have live meetings on Fridays or Saturdays—true online courses at TCC are asynchronous, which means they don’t have any set times for live meetings.

“Asynchronous courses allow students to complete work by deadlines on their own schedule versus having to attend class-specific dates and times,” explains Cristina Sullivan, dean of Academic Operations for TCC Connect. “We plan on offering more fully online sections in the future.”

TCC eLearning currently includes more than 170 college credit courses (plus a variety of Continuing Education courses for personal development and professional enrichment). While students may be learning remotely, there is a focus on their inclusion in the overall TCC community and a strong commitment to their success. “TCC Connect offers student services online,” Sullivan says. “Academic advising, success coaches, transfer services—all of this can be conveniently completed online so students do not need to come to campus. We are available if students need to meet face-to-face, but all in all we want to take the stress out of earning a credential or degree.”

Serving All Students

Of course, TCC strives to make it more convenient to earn a certificate or degree in all forms of learning—even traditional, on-campus classes, according to Shannon Ydoyaga, vice president of Academic Affairs for TCC South. That campus offers career training in areas including heating and air conditioning, construction, welding and automotive, in addition to core classes in math, science, humanities and so on.

“With these types of programs, it is essential to provide courses in the evening as well as on the weekends so we can support students needing to work and attend college,” says Ydoyaga. “Our comprehensive schedule is designed to serve all of our students.”

That means all students can reach their goals faster. Fung crossed the stage at graduation just 18 months after beginning Weekend College. The benefits, however, will last much longer than she imagined.

“I did not know it when I was in school, but the dialogue of college has been ingrained in my kids and their small children,” Fung says. “They have seen the success of my education as I have lived it. They, too, can continue their education.”

Get more information on TCC Connect programs by calling 817-515-8000 or visiting TCC Connect Campus online.

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