SALISBURY – Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is expecting to continue normal operations as it prepares to begin its fall semester next month.
The college shifted the vast majority of its courses to remote in the early stages of the pandemic, excluding courses to train emergency personnel. It gradually began returning in-person courses as COVID restrictions were lifted, but early registration numbers point to more demand for online courses than before the pandemic.
The only pandemic-era precautions still in place is social distancing in certain hands-on courses like cosmetology.
As of Tuesday, course offerings for the fall were 39% in-person or blended, 56% online and 5% hybrid, compared to 48% in-person, 44% online and 8% hybrid in the fall of 2019.
Chief Community Relations Officer Sarah Devlin said the change is about an 8% total shift toward online, but the numbers are still preliminary as the college is approaching its largest enrollment period.
“It’s not huge, but it certainly is a difference,” Devlin said. “Since we are back to fully on campus and offering classes on campus, that could be a shift that we see long term. It’s certainly one we’re continuing to see right now.”
Devlin said the college’s goal is to meet its students where they are, so it builds its courses around student needs and what they want to enroll in. Another sign of returning to normal is, rather than moving courses online because of the pandemic, it is meeting the demand of students. The college says it has the highest number of online courses certified by the organization Quality Matters out of any community college in the state.
“I think we saw some students who took online classes during the pandemic choose to reenroll in those online classes in subsequent because of the flexibility,” Devlin said. “They schedule around a job, their kids and things like that. I think a lot of students who are in transfer programs or other programs where they could take classes online find that really works for their lifestyles.”
As classes fill up online or in person, the college will open other sections and try to adjust the number of available courses to demand that way. Devlin said it is expected the split will continue to change as the college approaches the start of classes in August.
The college has not continually moved more classes back to in-person since the outset of the pandemic. In January, the college moved all its courses online through Jan. 24 due to a continuing surge in COVID-19 due to the omicron variant.