Our View: Should Simpson College try a mix of online and in-person classes?

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by The Simpsonian Editorial Board

It’s not uncommon for students at Simpson College to have every hour of each day planned out. With a liberal arts curriculum, we’re encouraged to take classes in all subjects, on top of taking on multiple internships and securing leadership roles in on-campus organizations.

In addition to that, our Continuing & Graduate Programs have students who commute from all over central Iowa, balancing families, full-time jobs and classes.

Would it be a bad idea to have courses with both in-class and online options for traditional and non-traditional students?

Peirce College in Philadelphia focuses primarily on adult learners and will eventually offer students the chance to go back and forth between showing up to class and taking the course online. The program will roll out in the fall and college administrators feel like it has promise.

From what we’ve researched, Peirce’s 2015-18 Strategic Plan on its website outlines areas that almost parallel what Simpson’s striving to provide its students:

  • Affordability
  • Higher education quality that is shifting towards a demand for “flexibility and improved speed to completion for students”
  • Flexibility in course offerings
  • More financial aid help
  • Career services and advising
  • Alumni and employer connections
  • More student retention
  • Commitment to building on the college’s current success

In a day where students depend on technology more than ever, having a backup plan in the event class is missed would help. We strive to do it all, but sometimes things don’t work out.

Transfer and non-traditional students often live off campus, meaning weather issues could be a frustration, making it difficult to get to classes. In addition to problems that could arise with commuting, last minute demands could mean attending class cannot be the main priority. Sometimes, traditional students also decide to commute. The higher education market is fluid and ever changing. Your traditional student might not always be seeking to live in a residence hall and wanting classes at regular operating hours.

Obviously students want an education – it’s why they’re going to college in the first place. But they might need alternative options so they can get the education they’re paying for with less stress and anxiety.

Peirce tested their pilot program last year and professors said students responded positively.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Stephanie Donovan, assistant professor and faculty chair for health programs at Peirce, said absences dropped nearly nine percent. This not only would boost students’ motivation to work hard on their assignments, but would also give them a chance to maintain their grades in the event of an illness, family-related problem or having to balance their jobs with school.

In the fall semester, Simpson president Jay Simmons said, “We’re moving the Ankeny campus directly across from the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) to a new development there called the Prairie Trail. We’re in close consultation about some bridge programs so as soon as a student up there receives an A.A., he or she can just literally walk across the street and start a degree completion with us at Simpson at Prairie Trail.”

That’s one way Simpson is seeking to improve its recruiting efforts for the Continuing & Graduate Programs so there’s more accessibility. But having both in-person and online options wouldn’t be such a bad idea to look into, either.