Online Occupational Education in Community Colleges: Prevalence, Programming, and Connection with Workforce Development Needs

Rod Patrick Githens, Timothy M. Sauer, Fashaad L. Crawford, Kristin B. Wilson
  • Career and Technical Education Research, January 2012, Association for Career and Technical Education Research
  • DOI: 10.5328/cter37.1.35

What is it about?

Online course offerings are a major part of community colleges’ workforce development efforts. These courses are key in providing access for people who need job training, but cannot attend traditional face-to-face programs either because the program isn’t offered in their geographic area or because of work/family commitments. Some community and technical colleges offer more online programs than others. Additionally, some programs, like office systems, are offered widely on many campuses, while others like manufacturing technology are less prevalent. The project examined the connection between institutional, economic, and social indicators that influence 1) the prevalence of online occupational programs and 2) the connection of those programs to state workforce development needs. Key findings include: 1) Although past research has shown that most institutions offer online occupational courses, only 47.5% of colleges in the sample offered credit-granting online occupational programs. 2) Despite research finding that skill-based programs requiring manipulative skill development can be successfully taught online in hybrid or blended formats, few such programs actually exist. 3) Occupational program development is not driven by statewide economic indicators, such as the state’s fastest growing occupations, suggesting a moderate responsiveness to states’ workforce development needs in developing online programming.

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