ACS uses blended learning to better serve student needs, save $$

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 ACS uses blended learning to better serve student needs, save $$

With the economy in a rut, it seems pretty impossible for any small college or university to survive on just tuition. With that in mind, colleges are trying to find ways to help each other out so that none of them have to shut down. Every college, whether big or small, has its perks. There is something about every college that makes it special. For instance, my school has decided to renovate every building and do major construction to build new ones. It would be a shame to forget about a school that had the potential for greatness just because of money issues.

That’s why the Associated Colleges of the South was created.

According to their website, ACS “is a consortium of sixteen distinguished liberal arts colleges and universities. They are nationally recognized institutions located in the South, encompassing twelve states.” If they’re recognized and distinguished, then why do they need to band together and collaborate? While these schools might very well be recognizable, it doesn’t mean they have the money to sustain themselves. That’s why the ACS created the New Paradigm Initiative. This concept could potentially change the face of small college education forever.

Is it an opportunity for bigger universities, as well.

Not just small colleges, but perhaps sometime in the future, bigger universities will begin to use this idea as well. The initiative first began because of one of the biggest problems on any campus- every class that every student might want to take can be offered at any given university.  The University of Richmond might offer one course that Davidson College does not. With the initiative, these southern colleges “join together to offer online and blended courses to students on any of the campuses within the consortium, meaning students at one institution are no longer limited to the courses offered just at their college.” The idea sounds crazy. Who would want to combine sixteen different schools into one giant school filled with over tens and thousands of students? It would be far too much of a hassle.

Thankfully, the ACS is not planning to jump right into the initiative. When it first starts, only four of the sixteen colleges will be participating, due to the price of technology. That’s right, in order to make this all possible, each individual classroom needs updates that can cost up to $250,000. Expensive, but it’s all worth it for these schools. Most of the schools have said that if they’re going to be working with education online and distance learning, they would prefer it to “maintain the feel of small-liberal arts classes, [where] professors on the home campus of a course will teach in a classroom outfitted with conference capabilities and students on other campuses will take part in real-time, synchronous discussions.”

So, what does the future hold for colleges working together?

Nobody really knows as of now for this situation has yet to be rolled out into action. There are many other considerations as well: if one student goes to a college, but takes most of his courses from another college, will he still get a degree from his home college? Also, many parents who send their children off to private schools are very weary of online education, saying that the in-person classroom is the only real way to learn. Despite this, the New Paradigm is allowing colleges to keep their distinctive academic programs. If each college in the consortium specializes in different things, then the possibilities to learn are endless.

I’ve begun to imagine how an opportunity such as this would change my education.

I’m a Professional Writing major. In my school, we have an abundance of writing classes ranging from Online Writing to Feature Lead Writing and Magazine Writing to Newspaper Writing. There isn’t one section of writing that isn’t covered within my school. My theater minor is simply just taking 5 classes and then I’ve completed it. This is how most minors are, but my point is, outside of these five classes, there aren’t many other theater courses. If the university were to join forces with a school more focused on the arts, I could take more courses in theater like I want to. One day, perhaps…but probably not until I’m out of college, unfortunately.


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