The article excerpted below about Thomas Edison State College reveals the attractive power of the convenience factor in instructional delivery. Students will use their virtual feet to rush to well-designed academic programs that reduce or eliminate the need for scheduled real-time interactions with fellow students, instructors, and other service providers. The nasty little secret about such programs comes from their faculties: online instruction can be as, or more, effective and engaging as traditional instruction, from the perspective of both instructors and students.
Enrollment growing at the state college no one attends
By Diane D'Amico, PressofAtlanticCity.com, January 23, 2006
No one really attends Thomas Edison State College. It has no dormitories, no athletic fields, no classrooms. Still, with more than 11,000 students and growing, Thomas Edison is the fourth-largest of New Jersey's state's nine state colleges. Founded in 1972, when distance learning meant driving a long way to class, its mission is “to create diverse and alternative methods of achieving a college education for mature adults.” Today the college offers a multitude of bachelor's and master's degree programs for people who don't even have to leave the house to learn. “Sometimes people do have a hard time figuring it out,” college President George A. Pruitt said. “But we develop programs based on client needs. It's hard to label us.” Pruitt was just named to a fourth term on the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. It's an appropriate role for a man who since 1982 has headed a college that technologically has been far ahead of the times. Thomas Edison was one of the first colleges to use technology to serve students where they were, rather than expecting students to come to them. As more colleges begin to offer online courses and degrees, they are facing issues Pruitt has been addressing for years, such as how to monitor a class that never meets, or a professor students may never see. What other ways are there to find out what a student knows? “You can measure competencies,” Pruitt said. “But first you have to define what a student should know and be able to do to meet the requirements of the course.” Pruitt likes to call Thomas Edison students self-directed because the one thing the college can't do is make them study. Students have to be self-motivated to do the work, even if their best study time is in the middle of the night. The average age of the students is about 40, but that's a bit misleading. Students must be 21 to take classes, and the oldest graduate was 87. “These are very goal-oriented people,” Pruitt said. Almost all had started college before, but never got the chance the finish. Read more ...