A description of the educational environment as background for the activity 11 in ELT 7008:

Understanding Learners Who Enroll in e-Learning Opportunities at Southwestern

Southwestern Oregon Community College (Southwestern) is located on the south coast of Oregon in a rural setting and is considered a small community college with an enrollment of 2700 program students. “Southwestern leads and inspires lifelong learning” is the vision statement by which Southwestern is guided. Southwestern is a quarter based two year public community college which offers educational opportunities for traditional based learning along with workforce training and community learning opportunities. e-Learning opportunities at Southwestern include web enhanced (supplemental learning and materials available online, no seat time replaced) and hybrid (seat time is replaced with an online learning component) learning opportunities along with fully online courses. Enrollment in the e-learning courses primarily consists of learners from within Oregon, with learners from all 50 states including the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the territories of Guam and United States Virgin Islands, and the occasional learner located in a foreign country. The average age of learners is over 25 and representative of the gender and ethnicity percentages consistent with the overall college enrollment.

Over the years, the technical skills of the learners enrolled in online courses diminished as initial, early adopter, online learners were more often to be technology literate compared to the learner who enrolls today. This is based on my own experiences as an online instructor and those of other Southwestern faculty who spend more time introducing the learner to technical requirements and covering course navigation issues than five years ago. The challenge as an instructor is to design a course to meet learner outcomes and needs “and then incorporate activities that address their various learning styles” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2004, p. 19).