Columbia College celebrates 10th year of online campus

Monday, October 11, 2010 | 7:57 p.m. CDT; updated 8:52 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 11, 2010

COLUMBIA — Columbia College is celebrating the 10th year of its online campus, and Gov. Jay Nixon has proclaimed October as Columbia College Online Education Month in honor of the occasion.

"It kind of formalizes recognition for what we're doing," said Michael Grissom, assistant dean for adult higher education and the online campus. "We have been around for 10 years now, and people don't know that."

The college began experimenting with online education in 1999, Grissom said.

The college's initial exploration of online education had a lot to do with its tie to the military, said Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean of academic affairs at Columbia College. Eighteen of Columbia College's 35 campuses are on military bases, according to its website.

"We needed to have a major presence online," Smith said. "The military required that any institution that taught on a military base had to offer online classes."

After a year of planning, which included setting up faculty, hardware and software, the college went live on Oct. 27, 2000, with ten classes and 180 students, Smith said.

Over the last ten years, the online campus has grown to offer entire degree programs online. The first full online degree Columbia College students could earn was in criminal justice, Smith said.

"By 2006, we offered five associate's degrees, nine bachelor's degrees and had the approval to offer three master's degrees," Smith said. The number has grown to six associate, 11 bachelor's and three master's degree programs.

More than 200 courses are offered and two-thirds of the students at Columbia College are connected to the online campus. The online campus offers completely online classes, hybrid classes and web-enhanced classes, Grissom said.

Courtney Lauer-Myers, 20, a senior at Columbia College, took Introduction to Computer Systems online the summer after her first year to better accommodate her full-time work schedule.

"It gave me more free time where I could do what I needed to do in lieu of going to class," Lauer-Myers said.

Smith said online education opens doors for non-traditional students.

"Adult learners can accelerate their degree completion," Smith said. "Multiple sections are offered every eight weeks instead of waiting for the next semester to complete a course."

Columbia College's military connection that helped create the online campus has continued and solidified over the course of its ten-year existence.

"Almost half our students in the online world are military personnel," Grissom said. "We have students in Iraq, students in Afghanistan, those that are deployed in active areas, military bases, all over the place."

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