Rio Salado College works as a system to support its distance/online program.
How this practice supports access: Rio Salado College's twenty-two years of experience with distance learning, along with its extensive use of adjunct faculty and its belief in systems thinking, has shaped its online program. Currently, Rio's online program offers students more than two hundred unique courses, 90 percent of the courses is available for students to enroll in every two weeks (twenty-six start times per year), with the remainder of the courses usually available for enrollment six to eight times per year. We never cancel a class that is offered online. Even if only one student enrolls, we can accommodate that student. When we survey students about what they like most about our distance program, they always give high ratings to the convenience factor--having access to education when they need and want it. Technology provides the management system that enables faculty members to handle several starts at one time. The technology also allows for timely interaction between faculty members and students, thus keeping everyone on track. Payment to adjunct faculty is adjusted according to the number of starts and the number of weeks the course will run. Because faculty at Rio are facilitators of student learning rather than presenters of information, it is easy to respond to students individually. Courses are created through a course-development process that ensures that each course aligns with the "Rio brand" of distance learning. All courses are asynchronous (testing is the only face-to-face requirement) and include a consistent navigational template and a focus on developing independent learners. The course-development process produces one version of each course, and adjunct faculty members teach/facilitate the majority of Rio's courses. All students and faculty are supported by a full range of online services. At Rio, you will not find a distance or online learning department. Rio's philosophy is that the entire college must work as a system to support its distance/online program. Six areas of the college form the system that supports Rio's online students and faculty members:
At Rio Salado College we believe that if all the parts of the system work well together, most students can succeed in the online classroom, so rather than screening out "at risk" students, we try to identify them and provide assistance to them. Our retention data tell us that 80 percent of students who are active in the second week of the course will successfully complete the course.