Many colleges are racing to expand their online course offerings — for purposes of revenue, status and extending their mission.

MiraCosta College's Oceanside main campus. Image via YouTube
MiraCosta College’s Oceanside main campus. Image via YouTube

MiraCosta College likes it for a more prosaic reason: real estate.

“One of the reasons we are going in this direction is because of access,” said Carlos Lopez, dean of the Mathematics and Sciences Department. “We simply do not have sufficient space to accommodate all of the growth we’ve experienced and expect to experience.”

On Friday, the district with Oceanside and Encinitas campuses announced it secured state approval to significantly expand its online course offerings. These would join classes under the umbrella of CyberCosta.
The go-ahead from the Committee on Substantive Change of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, means coastal North County’s largest higher education system can allow students to earn associate degrees entirely via “distance education” in up to 58 additional programs.

The committee’s OK came at its May 8 meeting, which green-lighted similar efforts around the state.

History professor Lisa Lane directs MiraCosta College's Program for Online Teaching.
History professor Lisa Lane directs MiraCosta College’s Program for Online Teaching.

MiraCosta also has can offer up to 24 additional certificates of achievement and up to 16 additional certificates of proficiency via distance education, the state said.

Distance education, aka online classes, occurs when 50 percent or more of the instructional class time occurs outside of the classroom. Included in this category are courses in which 100 percent of the class is online.

But MiraCosta — with about 17,000 students — is still months away from the expansion, officials said.

MiraCosta offered its first online class in 1995. Four years later, it offered 22. Last fall, MiraCosta College offered 227 course sections that were entirely online and 83 hybrid course sections.
In 2010, nearly one-third of MiraCosta College students were enrolled in at least one distance education course; today that number is more than 44 percent, the school says. More than 12 percent of MiraCosta College students are enrolled solely in distance education courses, up from less than 9 percent in 2010.

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