Distance Learning Program History

Beginnings

Northwest Arkansas Community College formally began our Distance Learning program in 1995. The Center for Instructional Technology at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (UAF) provided the College with a Compressed Interactive Video (CIV) unit for in-state videoconferencing. In October of 1996, the College and the University signed an agreement providing for the use of the equipment and a facilitator/coordinator to oversee the site. The two schools also agreed to begin working together to provide Distance Learning opportunities to UAF and NWACC students.

Compressed Interactive Video

In Spring of 1997 NWACC offered the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville a pilot class in Pre algebra. The class was a developmental math course for students struggling with Beginning and Intermediate Algebra. The class was offered to UAF, where students struggling with MATH 0003 (A combined Beginning and Intermediate Algebra course) did not have a course that serves as a precursor to that class. The class had 11 students, 5 on the NWACC campus and 6 on the UAF campus. This initial offering was followed up by more developmental math courses to the University of Arkansas and a regular evening developmental math course to Springdale, at the Jones Center for Families. Those offerings ended due to low enrollment. NWACC also developed relationships with the Arkansas Consortium to Teach Agriculture for the delivery of introductory courses in Agricultural and Human Environmental Sciences disciplines.

NWACC also utilized CIV to provide concurrent credit "Step Ahead" courses to local school districts. This began with offerings to Lincoln High School in College Algebra and Western Civilization in the fall of 1999. In 2005, the state of Arkansas offered a major grant for video conference equipment to the state's K-12 districts, creating the opportunity for greater exchange of courses and greater access to college and other courses on high school campuses. NWACC expanded the Step Ahead [now Early College Experience] offerings in conjunction with this development, in partnership with local districts. At various times, NWACC has provided courses to the following school districts: Lincoln, Pea Ridge, Gentry, Prairie Grove, and Siloam Springs. Courses in History, Math, English, Spanish, and Western Civilization have been offered.

NWACC also participated in the University of Arkansas Human Resources Development cohort program. The initial cohort at NWACC began studies in the fall of 2004 and completed their program in the spring of 2006.

The College also received occasional professional development and community courses via the CIV system.

CIV Equipment

NWACC originally was provided with a VTEL Media Max CIV unit, and a one camera, two monitor system. In 1998 the College expanded this system to a VTEL LC 3200, with 4 monitors (two 32" and two 53") and two cameras.

The unit was originally located in Room 104 of the Business, Industry and Workforce Development Institute Building (BII), 2600 Hudson, Rogers Arkansas, holding a maximum of about 15 people, plus a facilitator, comfortably, when set up for a video conference. In early January 1998, the unit was moved to Room 1223 at the Central Educational Center (now Burns Hall) in Benton at One College Drive. This room was larger and offered Internet access and an observation room for the Distance Learning Coordinator or facilitators. The room was configured temporarily for Distance Learning although regular classes still used it.

The main CIV lab is on the 2nd floor of Burns Hall, in room 2459. This room is configured full-time for interactive video and currently uses a Tandberg MXP-6000 unit. NWACC uses a system of ceiling microphones mixed with a table mic and wireless mic for the instructor.

In late 2012 a new distance education room was created in Burns Hall 2411 for a partnership program with ASU Mountain Home for Funeral Science. This room is equipped with a Cisco C40 TelePresence codec, ceiling mics and speakers, and a front podium fully equipped for digital presentation.

Self-Directed Study

In fall 1998, NWACC offered a World Literature course as a "Self-Directed Study" course. This course utilized a large handout packet, and a supporting web page to enable students to complete assignments. Students also met with instructors 3 times during the semester. The course functioned similarly to independent study courses, with the notable exception of regular communications via e-mail, and a supporting web site. WebCT was used to support these courses starting in 2000.

Telecourses

In 1998, NWACC began offering telecourses in conjunction with the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), and the Arkansas Telecommunications/Telecourse Consortium. Courses in Psychology, Sociology, and History were offered between 1998 and 2005, NWACC also offered Wellness Concepts, via a local partnership with Jones Television, during 2004. This course delivery method ended in Spring 2005.

Internet-Based Courses

In Spring 2000, NWACC began offering online, Internet-based courses, in conjunction with ACCESS Arkansas, a consortium of Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges schools. Most of NWACC's online courses used WebCT to facilitate the web sites, course materials, and the vast majority of the class communications. In 2009, the college upgraded to a new online system, Blackboard CE 8.

Online Degrees

NWACC was given approval to offer an online Associate of Arts by the Arkansas Board of Higher Education in 2004. The online Associate of Arts is the same degree as the regular A. A., with the same requirements. In 2007, an AAS degree in Environmental & Regulatory Science was approved for online delivery.

Distance Learning Committee

In the fall of 1996, the college established a Distance Learning Committee to advise and support distance education activities. The present members can be found on the Committee page. The mission of the committee is to provide oversight and recommendations for Distance Learning at NWACC.