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Southwest Texas Junior College Increases Online Courses and Certificates

Southwest Texas Junior College, a community college serving a large 11-county area, announced it has partnered with instructional design firm iDesign to create new online courses and certificates in STEM, the humanities, social sciences, and more.

The new courses and certificates are especially aimed at providing opportunities for rural learners. The college's service area stretches from the Texas Hill Country to the U.S.-Mexican border. Its main campus is in Uvalde, with two other campuses, three instructional centers, and distance education links to 22 school districts elsewhere.

Although rural Texas students have a higher high school graduation rate than urban peers, only 28% of them go on to finish college with a degree, the college said, quoting from an article in "Working Nation." Colleges and universities are sparse in rural areas (only 14% of all higher education institutions are in rural areas), making it difficult for rural students to attend.

The partnership with iDesign is bringing faculty experts and instructional designers to create courses to teach high-demand industry skills. Each course will feature up-to-date teaching methods, professional production, and interactive video.

In addition to helping design courses, iDesign will provide faculty with real-time access to the Instructional Design Support Center. They can receive facilitated training in online course instruction and get help creating online courses, which include pre-designed templates in the LMS for their use or modification. They also have access to support services and troubleshooting, the college said.

"Because we serve rural learners and communities across tens of thousands of square miles, we know distance can be a significant barrier for students," said Mark Underwood, vice president of academic affairs. "This is about leveraging technology to close the digital divide and meet the needs of the rural learners and communities of Southwest Texas. It's about giving faculty access to cutting-edge services and tools to create rich and rigorous online courses that can meet the needs of students and employers throughout the region."

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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