A recent article published in the On Ed Tech Newsletter refers to Tarrant County College as a “big player” in two-year online learning. The article synthesizes data from multiple sources and explores the challenges online education presents for community colleges across the nation, given their focus on vocational programs.
Tarrant County College has been identified as one of six community colleges in the United States in the top 25 institutions serving fully online students. According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), data collected during 2021-2022, Tarrant County College served approximately 29.6% of its student enrollment via fully online modality. An additional 18,723 TCC students participated in some form of distance education during the same period. In Fall 2022, TCC served 15,293 unduplicated fully online students, representing 34% of the district headcount. One year later (Fall 2023), TCC served 16,039 unduplicated fully online students.
The article’s author reflects that the demand for online learning gained momentum following the global pandemic. Additionally, it was noted that community college students must often balance work and family commitments beyond their university counterparts. Fully online courses offer access and convenience to many who might otherwise be unable to progress their education.
Many institutions of higher education plan to expand their online presence due to declining enrollments in on-campus space; yet offering a large catalog of online classes is a commitment and requires special considerations. According to the article and cited data, students enrolling online are likely to be non-traditional in terms of age and outside commitments. Online learning requires a different infrastructure to be done successfully; in addition to specialized technology support, online services such as advising and tutoring must be intentional and user-friendly.
TCC Connect, entering its 10th year, continues to grow and expand its online operations. While enrollments are important, the focus on quality, retention, and completion remains. President Carlos Morales reflected on the work involved. “Since its inception as the first and only fully online campus built from the ground up in Texas in 2014, TCC Connect continues leading, innovating, and increasing student success.” He outlined 10 strategic initiatives geared toward better serving online students. “Peer Developed Courses, Online Instructor Certification, Wintermester, Summer Offerings, Eight-Week Programs, Online Summer School, Monthly Starts, Online Advising, eFaculty Coaching, and instituting a virtual computer lab all continue to evolve and serve students in the online modality.”
Linked Article, IPEDS Data, Institutional Research Data