Newsweek Recognizes Wake Tech as One of America’s Best Online Colleges ::

This article was written for our sponsor, Wake Technical Community College.

Online learning has become a mainstay of higher education in just a few years.

While the number of students taking online courses has slowly increased over the past two decades, it skyrocketed in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to around 73% of students taking courses partially. or entirely online, according to Inside Higher Ed.

A local college, Wake Technical Community College, was specially prepared when students needed to switch to online learning.

“Wake Tech is not new to online or distance education,” said Bryan Ryan, senior vice president of efficiency and innovation at Wake Tech. “The college recognized the potential of Internet-based learning before the year 2000 and has spent more than a decade building the hardware infrastructure, software tools, human resources and support services needed to expand student access to distance learning.”

This preparation has helped Wake Tech gain national recognition for its online programs. Wake Tech has twice been ranked the top online community college in the nation in different national rankings, and most recently Newsweek ranked Wake Tech among the nation’s best online colleges and universities for 2022.

Newsweek and Statista worked together to determine the quality of online colleges by asking students if they were satisfied with their schools and if they would recommend them to others. The resulting ranking includes the top 150 colleges and universities that offer online courses, including Wake Tech, the only community college in North Carolina to make the list.

“Wake Tech has a long history of taking a future-focused approach to higher education, fostering a culture of innovation focused on creating evidence-based solutions to foreseen and unforeseen challenges,” Ryan said.

This approach has led Wake Tech to become the largest community college in the state, with over 70,000 students enrolled each year. It offers over 100 fully online programs, most of any community college in the country.

“This isn’t anything new,” said Scott Ralls, Ph.D., president of Wake Tech. “It’s not because of anything that happened in the last two years. The development of the online program dates back a decade or more.

In fact, community colleges are sort of the pioneers of online education since the student population was more likely than other colleges to include many full-time workers who needed flexible hours, Ralls said. The average age of Wake Tech students is 26.

“Foresight and strategies dating back eight to ten years prepared and enabled us for online education before the pandemic,” Ralls said. “We had already made significant technology investments and the county helped us ensure the redundancy and resilience of our technology.”

For example, reliable internet is crucial for online education, and Wake County has worked to provide it to residents. Along with this investment, Wake Tech offers technical support to help students and staff resolve issues.

“What really sets us apart is our focus on what it takes to make sure all students are successful,” Ralls said. “We ensure that before teaching online courses, our teachers go through a certification process to prepare to teach in a virtual environment and that students complete a training program to prepare to take online courses. .”

This process is called EPIC, eLearning Preparedness Initiative Across the College.

“Wake Tech launched EPIC in 2015 to improve the quality of its online programming through an intentional effort focused on better preparing students to learn online and faculty to teach online,” Ryan said.

EPIC is a 30-hour online teaching certification that covers the Blackboard learning management system, navigation, accessibility, universal design for learning, and best practices for online course design.

“Given that EPIC was well established when the college was forced to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by moving nearly all classes to remote delivery, Wake Tech has not seen the same level of disruption to the learning than other colleges and universities,” Ryan said. .

EPIC and the student course, e-Learning Intro, improved pass rates and reduced gaps between online and in-person performance from 12% in 2016 to no gap in 2020.

“Another impact of EPIC is that Wake Tech has developed a cadre of professional eLearning technologists, accessibility technologists, and instructional designers to support online instruction,” Ryan said.

This article was written for our sponsor, Wake Technical Community College.