ABC-7 Special report: Online courses

Popularity grows for virtual learning

EL PASO, Texas -  UTEP student Itzel Balboa, 20, wasn't entirely against "laptop learning."

But she told ABC-7 it wasn't her first choice -- she was forced to take an online math course when there were no more sections available.

Balboa was optimistic, saying her friends gave the virtual classes good reviews.

"They really liked online courses because they learned at their own pace. And they said they actually learned more," said Balboa.

But Balboa's online math class experience was far from ideal.

"I found it really, really hard because there are a certain (number of) hours you had to take in a week," she said. "With me having a busy schedule, I had a really hard time getting those hours done."

Enrollment in online classes is increasing.

UTEP has seen growth over the last five years. Nearly 900 students pursuing undergraduate and masters degrees took one or more online courses in the fall 2013 semester. NMSU has also seen an upward trend in enrollment -- from more than 10,300 students in fall 2009 to nearly 11,800 this school year.

Online courses were first offered at El Paso Community College in 2000. Then, only a couple of courses were available -- and only a handful of students signed up. Today, 300 classes are available online and nearly 5,400 students are enrolled.

Bob Jones, the director of the Distance Education Program at EPCC's Valle Verde campus, said the college sees a 5- to 7-percent increase in online class enrollment each year.
"All age groups, all different backgrounds. We have students who haven't been in school in a dozen years and high school students who just graduated," Jones added.

"I just think it opens up so many possibilities that wouldn't be available to the students otherwise."

As for UTEP student Itzel Balboa, she gave online courses another try. This time, she enrolled in a music history course.

"It's way easier than the math one," she said.

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