Imagine college without semesters, no new classes every four to five months, no mid-terms grades, and no regular and set schedules. While many students may need the structure of class times, due dates, and final exam days, others may find that they are sick of waiting around for a course to end. If you have ever sat throughout one boring lecture after another, thinking, "I could do this so much faster on my own," you are not alone; those in higher education are starting to think so too.
Jefferson Community and Technical College in Kentucky, has implemented a program called Learn Anytime, purposed to allow students to work through and complete courses at their own pace. Learn Anytime courses contain the same content as the college’s traditional eLearning and classroom courses, and with the possible exception of a proctored final exam, they are conducted 100 percent online. As they are not governed by semesters, but rather "virtual terms," students enrolled in Learn Anytime courses are given the flexibility to complete assignments on their own time. This self-paced program doesn’t include group projects or discussions, but rather automatically-graded quizzes and independent projects. But even with such freedom, these courses are meant for students who desire to finish classes and not drag them out. While these types of courses can begin any day of the year, students are required to complete them within 120 days of that start date. Currently, Jefferson Community and Technical College offers Learn Anytime courses in a variety of subjects, including economics, English, history, mathematics, physics, humanities, philosophy, psychology, computer information systems, classical languages and literature, and interdisciplinary early childhood education.
As with any new way of doing things, there are the upsides and downsides to this new method of instruction. Learn Anytime gives Jefferson the ability to accommodate more students in more classes. Gone are the days of full class sections and missed registration deadlines, and students don’t have to wait until the next semester to enroll in a class they might otherwise miss out on. These "virtual terms" also allow for instructors to give each student more individualized attention when it comes to coursework, as they are not grading 50 papers at once but each assignment as it comes in. But with the positives also come the negatives, and some worry that this independent system of learning might leave students out in the cold. With no set class structure, students may be more inclined to significantly fall behind in their coursework or just drop out of a class completely. And without the careful observation and detailed instruction of in-person class time, there’s the risk of students not reaching their learning potential and understanding course content to the fullest extent.
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