Interview: Helen Torres, Director Distance Education, San Antonio College Online

Helen Torres, Director of Distance Education at San Antonio College Online joins us today to discuss their distance education programs.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at San Antonio College Online.

San Antonio College Online offers over 177 different online courses and over 240+ sections per semester. We generate about 19,000+ annual enrollments from the local San Antonio area, as well as out of state and out of country students. Currently we serve students in Turkey, Poland, China, United Kingdom and other countries. We offer an Associate of Arts in liberal arts, and criminal justice courses and an Associate of Applied Science degree online in Corrections, and Law Enforcement.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

Students enroll in online courses, blended courses which are 20% face to face and 80% online, video courses which are also blended with a video series component, and interactive video conferencing. The students choose how they want to take their courses. Most of the time they blend 2 online courses, and one video and one blended. They decide based on their personal life schedule and commitment.

What would you say makes San Antonio College Online programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

SAC Online has been replicated by other community colleges because it has been seen as a model program. It is comprehensive and one of the most unique features include the online student support services that we offer our online students: online admissions and enrollment, online counseling, online testing, online library services, online payment, online tutoring, online bookstore etc. We also provide technical support to our students through our helpdesk.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an online college?

Accreditation is very important. Remember an online course or program should be a quality course or program. The only difference is the modality of instruction. Thus regardless of modality, a course should be appropriately accredited and sanctioned. Our courses/programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and also approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. What steps does San Antonio College Online take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

Students are challenged to be interactive and there are numerous ways and tools used in our course platforms to require that students interact with the instructor and with each other. I teach an urban planning course and my students are required to also engage in problem based learning by forming groups and collaborating even though the course is taught totally online.

What would you say are some of the benefits of earning a degree online rather than in a traditional classroom?

I do not advocate that online courses are better than traditional courses; I advocate options for our new students with busy and complicated schedules. I advocate access to higher education beyond the traditional classroom. I advocate quality in whatever instructional format used.

If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

Our faculty incorporate Service Learning in many of our online courses. Thus students have the opportunities to apply theory to practice via service learning.

Does San Antonio College Online offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

Yes. We have a comprehensive Job Placement Office and we offer several job fairs throughout the year. Students are assisted in preparing their resumes and they also receive tips on how to interview prior to the job fairs.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes. Online students apply for financial aid also.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling in online classes for the first time?

Yes. Register early and visit our website to familiarize yourself with our online student services such as the Internet Course Readiness Module available online to assist students on how to take an online course successfully. Go to the SAC Online website at www.accd.edu/sac/online and click on student services and click on Internet Skills Center. Email your instructor as soon as possible and familiarize yourself with the course site.

What do you enjoy most about your position at San Antonio College Online?

I love the fact that my job is dynamic! I never do the same thing every day. I always have new initiatives to work on with students. It is a pleasure to work on innovative ways to expand access to students via SAC Online. I encourage all students to visit our website and to consider enrolling in an online course. Going The Distance To Serve You!

For more information on distance learning programs offered at San Antonio College Online, Go Here to visit them online.

Thank you Helen, for sharing and participating in this piece for Online Degrees 2.0

That concludes our interview!

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