Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Organized to Succeed: Rio Salado College

Community College Times recently featured an online public community college that has succeeded in meeting the demand for an alternative to the traditional classroom, keeping it affordable for students and the state, and supporting students’ learning with innovative online services. Rio Salado College, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, is one of ten colleges in the Maricopa Community College System and serves 70,000 students each year. Yet, even with tens of thousands of students, Rio Salado’s operating costs are 48% less than what peer institutions nationwide are spending. How do they do it?

The organizational structure that helps Rio Salado keep costs down includes:
  • More than 60 certificate and degree programs
  • Just 22 residential faculty
  • More than 1,400 adjunct faculty
  • More than 6,000 course sections taught by adjuncts

The resident faculty have the responsibility of planning each course’s content, while the sections of the course are taught by adjunct faculty.

Rio Salado College president Chris Bustamante said, “Any way you look at it, online learning is an increasingly vital part of producing the number of qualified graduates needed to meet future workforce demands—when it is done correctly.” Part of what is helping Rio Salado “do it correctly” is a learning management system that was developed exclusively for the college, ensuring that it meets all of the college’s individual needs. Also, support services are customized for non-traditional students’ individual lifestyles. That is, a student can succeed no matter his or her situation:
  • Working adult
  • Active military student accessing coursework online
  • Student of adult basic education
  • Incarcerated adult
  • Early college student
  • Workforce training program student

The college offers resources such as round-the-clock instructional and technology help desks, tutoring, and virtual library services. Online classes are never cancelled and offer flexible start dates throughout the year.

These features and resources are making college a viable option for students who might otherwise never be able to work toward a degree.

Are you a student of an online college? What services does your college provide that help you succeed in your online college education?

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