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Distance education enrollment booming

A new collaboration has led to a dramatic increase in the University’s distance-education enrollment, officials from Continuing Education and Outreach said.

The governor’s office reviewed Binghamton’s extensive list of online courses and chose more than 30 to be offered in special sections just for state employees. The sixweek courses cover topics such as forensic accounting, speed Spanish, introduction to Web design, coping with stress, coaching for top performance and communicating like a leader.

Continuing Education typically enrolls 30 to 40 students per month in online classes. In October, 65 students signed up through the governor’s office. That number rose to 258 in November, 341 in December and 556 in January.

“It just kind of exploded,” said Debbie Collett-O’Brien, online program manager, who noted 374 have already signed up this month.

At one point, Continuing Education was receiving a registration every three minutes.

“We’re in growth mode,” said Joceyln Thornton, assistant director for noncredit programs. “Our goal is to go after other state agencies to offer them the same services.”

The governor’s office takes care of marketing the classes. Continuing Education handles r

egistration, customer service and follow-up through a special Web site.

The six-week sessions overlap, so that there are now more than a thousand people enrolled at any given time, Collett-O’Brien said. She has had nearconstant interaction with the students, who are online at all hours of the day and night.

“I feel like I have a new set of a thousand friends,” she said. “It’s exciting. They’re a fun group of people.”

The program is a mere five months old and already accounts for about 75 percent of Binghamton’s distance-education enrollment.

“There was no way to project this growth,” Thornton said. And there’s no way to be sure what future enrollment trends will be, either.

Still, Collett-O’Brien said she has already received registrations for December. “There’s no end in sight now,” she said.

Continuing Education has already seen some repeat customers. For instance, Speed Spanish II was offered because the first course was so popular. And Collett-O’Brien said she has spoken to students who were referred to the program by a friend who was pleased with an earlier course.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to grow and for us to grow into,” she said.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08