HUTTO – Now is an exciting time for the development of online classes.
"I think this will open the doors to a whole new market of people who want to be part of Texas State Technical College," said Hector Yanez, TSTC's senior vice president of Student Learning.
TSTC shifted classes online in late March due to the COVID-19 situation, then in early May went to a hybrid format in several programs so students could complete hands-on labs. The hybrid format is being used this summer and will be used this fall.
"What we are doing is making sure the quality of our online courses has stepped up even further," said Gina Cano-Monreal, TSTC's associate vice president of Online Learning. "We are working with subject and content experts in each area to ensure there is the same level of quality in their online programs as we have in our face-to-face courses."
The Harlingen campus was the first of TSTC's 10 campuses to have an online learning office. Since the merger of TSTC's campuses in 2015, online learning has expanded statewide.
"With the help of the online learning office, our courses have been brought forward in a whole new light, showing the spectrum of information that we teach by giving the students numerous ways to absorb it," said Nelson Adams, lead instructor in TSTC's Culinary Arts program at the Williamson County campus.
Instructors are scheduling virtual office hours to further engage with students. And, instructors are working statewide to provide a library of digital content for students to utilize.
"The ability to present course material and resources in multiple formats online allows students to learn from anywhere using a variety of devices," Cano-Monreal said. "Courses are also more tailored to the personal needs of the student."
Shannon Ferguson, statewide chair of TSTC's Computer Programming Technology and Web Design and Development Technology programs, said online classes on Moodle are a way to reach all TSTC students across the state.
"It opens the door to remove the restrictions of set class times of our programs," he said. "It is no longer Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, during class time. I am asking instructors to stay in contact with students and let them know we are here. Since we do not have face-to-face labs (for certain classes) it does not mean they cannot reach out to us. It does not mean we will not have virtual meetings online where we see their screens."
Some students may have a difficult time adjusting to online classes. Cano-Monreal recommended students take TSTC's student online learning orientation to familiarize themselves on how to be academically successful online.
"If you are not understanding something, reach out to a faculty member and fellow students," Cano-Monreal said. "The faculty that we have teaching the online courses are the same faculty that teach our face-to-face courses."
Cano-Monreal also recommended students practice good time management but embrace flexibility.
"What a lot of our instructors are telling our students is to pretend you are coming to class and schedule that time to go to your online class," she said.
Yanez said students taking online classes will make them digitally better.
"The students are getting tremendous experience in Zoom and Webex meetings and doing testing online," he said. "You see dropboxes for homework and classmates doing videos. Pretty much the online students are going to have a tremendous awakening of the digital skills they are exposed to."
Cano-Monreal said faculty and staff members realize some students can have limited technology access once they are off campus. She said students in this situation can talk to their instructor, who can pass the information on to advisement and retention services staff to determine how best to assist.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to www.tstc.edu.