College of the Mainland student Chelsea Murray accesses the discussion board of her online astronomy class from her smart phone.

Enrollment is up at College of the Mainland, but fewer students are jostling in the halls this fall. This year COM has seen a 20 percent increase in enrollment in online versus face-to-face classes.

“It’s better for my schedule,” said Samantha Brooks, a COM student taking Career Explorations online in addition to working part-time.
She’s not alone in looking for a way to juggle a job and school.
“With the economy improving, more students are working. Even if they’re working full-time, they can come to class online. It’s convenient,” said COM distance education director Janet Wortman.
At COM, students can finish an entire semester – and degree – from anywhere in the world.
“We have a lot of young women and men in the military, and they can enroll online and take courses in Iraq,” said Wortman.
COM student Viridiana Smith is taking her first online class this semester, the nursing prerequisite Medical Terminology. She has found the segue from the classroom to the keyboard – or smart phone – a smooth one.
“What you need to do is very clear,” she said. “The instructor answers emails the same day if you have questions.”
In COM professor Steve Sewell’s online classes, history meets the 21st century. Sewell outlines online the same information on rulers and revolutions he’s presented in the classroom for more than 20 years – but in his online course the shot heard round the world is animated with YouTube videos, maps and photos.
“In face-to-face classes, I never showed my students what historical figures looked like,” said Sewell. “Now I have hundreds of images so students can see their faces.”
Even tests are more colorful than their former paper-and-ink counterparts.
“There are games, practice quizzes and fun ways to find out if they’ve acquired the knowledge I want them to gain,” said Sewell.
The course isn’t quite Candy Crush, however, and online students, like all scholars, must devise a schedule to complete assignments.

Student Chelsea Murray shows off the Blackboard app she’s programmed to send reminders of online assignments to her phone.
“I think there are more tools you can access (in online classes). I can do discussions on my phone, so there’s really no excuses for not doing discussions,” she said. “In Spanish online you can record yourself speaking and you can see how to improve. ”

Distance and hectic schedules pose no hindrance to learning.
“An online class is exactly the same material they’d get in class, just a different method of delivery,” said online English teacher Gilchrist White. “Students are getting a quality education.”