16:12 PM

Innovating further and faster

Twelfth annual distance learning symposium at STC encourages faculty to bring innovation into online courses.

South Texas College faculty had the opportunity to share, network, engage, and explore ideas for online instruction from a variety of breakout sessions and speakers at the college’s 12th annual Distance Learning Symposium on Aug. 23.

The symposium, entitled “Innovate to Educate” enabled faculty members to have a platform to network and learn about the newest developments taking place with regards to online learning.

“The symposium is a little mini-conference for all faculty to explore new possibilities of doing new things in their classroom, to engage their students with innovation. We want them to have new ideas, and things to do when it comes to their online classes,” said Ana Rocio Pena, Director of Distance Learning and Virtual Campus at South Texas College. “Online learning has changed tremendously since this conference started because of technology. Now we bring in keynote speakers so our attendees are able to explore, and get feedback from their peers.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Whitney Kilgore is co-founder and Chief Academic Officer at iDesign, a higher education service provider that partners with universities to design, develop, grow and support quality online and blended programs. At the symposium, she spoke about innovation and engaging students for online learning.

“Innovation is an interesting word right now, but it means different things to different people,” Dr. Kilgore said. “Trying one new thing is still innovating. Really the message was not being afraid to take the chance, and to innovate themselves within their own courses.”

Starting in 1997 with two course sections and 57 students, the Distance Learning Program at STC has since expanded to include 32 programs, which are fully online, 250 faculty, 700 online classes, and 6,000 students.

Students can earn one of 32 degrees and certificates entirely online as they pursue their career goals.

SR Education Group, an online education publisher, recently ranked South Texas College Online at the very top of their 2016 Most Affordable Online Colleges list. Published on OnlineU.org, the ranking identified the college as the most affordable online college in the nation.

The ranking is significant, as South Texas College Online is experiencing record growth in student enrollment. In fall 2015, South Texas College Online hit a record high enrollment of 5,925 students. Six percent of the total STC student body took classes completely online, while 17 percent took at least one online class.

“At this institution, you already have so many faculty who are teaching online and who are already innovating in that way,” she said. “I think that the challenge today that I hope they took away from the conversation was to innovate further, farther, and faster.”