Jiri Belohlavek had just completed his associate’s degree in Culinary Arts in Spring 2020 and sought to round out his education with a Business/Marketing degree. The Scottsdale Community College (SCC) student enrolled in Introduction to Social Media, a 5-week accelerated online course during the Summer semester, because he intended to use it as a tool for additional income and wanted the necessary professional training for this growing field.
At the time, all of SCC’s courses were being delivered through online instruction only.
“I know there is still a population of would-be students (and parents of students) who believe online education is lackluster in comparison to traditional, in-person learning,” said Belohlavek. “The hard truth of online learning at SCC or any institution is that it is as useful as the instructor makes it and as effective as the effort of the student.”
Each week in the social media course, Belohlavek and his fellow classmates learned about one or more major social media platforms, set up their own account, and then began posting to each platform throughout the semester. Instructor Sara Beakley-Mercill guided students through the process and used related assignments to demonstrate best practices and the repercussions of poor social media usage.
Belohlavek said, “The few times my anxiety over seemingly innocuous aspects of an assignment, such as post length or subject breadth, overcame me, she (Beakley-Mercill) was always very willing to clearly and kindly explain to me how to proceed. I cannot stress ‘kindly’ enough. There is obvious love in her work and her comments on assignments were both useful and encouraging.”
It’s this meaningful connection between educators and online learners that are contributing to strong student outcomes at SCC.
According to preliminary data from SCC’s Institutional Research department, success rates for students attending On Your Time online instruction jumped 7 percentage points, from 70.7% for the Summer 2019 semester to 77.6% for Summer 2020. Summer 2020 was the first full term in which Live Online classes were available, and students taking this modality notched an impressive success rate of 88.7%, which is higher than those taking in person, hybrid or online classes during the same period last year.
|Mode||Summer 2020||Summer 2019|
|Percentages indicate the amount of total students who received an A, B, C, or Passing grade.|
The newer Live Online classes at SCC have live online sessions that meet on specific days and times, and attendance is mandatory. With the On Your Time Online classes, coursework is completed according to deadlines and classes do not meet at a specific time.
The duration of the academic term is also positively shaping student outcomes. Data shows that students are posting improved success rates when taking the shorter 8-week sessions versus the more traditional 16-week semester format. SCC also offers many courses in an accelerated format of 4- and 5-week timeframes during Summer semester and 7- to 9-weeks in Fall and Spring.
|Mode||Fall 2017||Fall 2018||Fall 2019|
|8 week*||16 week*||8 week*||16 week*||8 week*||16 week*|
|*8 week includes classes between 7 and 9 weeks. *16 week includes classes 15 weeks or longer.|
Amanda Garcia is a Film major at SCC and is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Justice Studies at NAU. Like Belohlavek, she took the compressed Introduction to Social Media course during Summer semester.
“I enjoy taking 5- to 8-week courses simply because they are done quicker,” said Garcia.
While she indicated there was more homework and projects to finish in a shorter period, it was overall easier for her to complete in the more compact session.
“I truly enjoy online learning at SCC,” she said. “It allows me to work full-time while pursuing my degree. As most adults, I have to work full-time in order to pay my bills. So online learning works perfect for me because I can do homework and projects when it’s convenient for me on my days off or after work.”
SCC faculty are excelling at online instruction by applying their broad teaching experience and employing extensive training provided by the college. Key areas of study for teaching in an online environment include how to effectively use SCC's learning management system, setting up courses for ease of navigation and related academic and student services, the knowledge and practices to develop their courses for impactful teaching and accessible design, and best practices for the delivery of Live Online sessions.
To ensure student success in the distance-learning format, SCC is making many student support services available online as well, including tutoring, library/research, advising, counseling and options for testing.
SCC recently launched the Online Learning Center featuring extensive information, how-to guides, assessments, video resources and more – designed to help students of all levels of experience with online learning improve their potential for success and overall academic outcomes. The College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to offer its associate degree and certificate programs 100 percent online, and its eLearning Steering Committee recently received a 2020 National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Award for innovation in delivering online education.
This deep knowledge and experience in delivering robust online instruction in turn is making a positive difference for SCC students.
Suzanne Eley was also enrolled in the same social media class. The Behavioral Health Sciences major had taken other online classes before and had experienced some challenges. As a hands-on and auditory learner, she was worried that she would struggle to retain the material.
Eley commented, “She (Beakley-Mercill) did an excellent job checking up on us and reminding us of what needs to be done. She also did a great job at teaching the curriculum, making sure what she was saying was clear and precise. Overall, she is a phenomenal online professor. After having Sara, I don't know if I could have another online professor that did as great as her.”
When asked about his online learning experience at SCC, Belohlavek reported he was very satisfied. “The knowledge and confidence I gained from the practical coursework is priceless.”
In the last few days of his summer semester class, Belohlavek had a job interview at Brunch Cafe, in north Scottsdale. He was able to leverage his culinary education and recent training in social media, recommending a Twitter campaign for the eatery that was initially created as part of a class assignment, to stand out from all other applicants. Today, he is going through new hire orientation after landing the restaurant manager position.
To learn more about Scottsdale Community College’s online programs, courses and student support services, visit the Online Learning Center.