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April/May 2009

Georgia Perimeter Online
Learning on Your Schedule
by Carrie Whitney

Wesleyan School  
For those with hectic lives who once considered going back to school impossible, times have changed. With many college classes available online, education has achieved the ultimate flexibility, and Atlanta’s own Georgia Perimeter College has become a leader in online education. Offering online versions of nearly all subjects and with more than 6,500 students taking at least one online class, GPC has become a virtual haven for students with family and work responsibilities and otherwise busy schedules.

“GPC Online is making a college education accessible to thousands of Georgians who otherwise would not be able to pursue their dreams,” says Mark Griffin, GPC’s executive director of distance learning. “Many of our online students would be unable to continue their education without the opportunity to take classes on a schedule that accommodates other demands in their lives.”

The online classes typically are taught during a normal semester, about 16 weeks. Instructors design their own courses and provide a variety of materials to students to supplement textbooks. These additional materials may include taped lectures, videos or readings. Assignments are given on a weekly basis, so students must keep up with the course, but most of the work can be done at the student’s convenience.

Once a student registers for a class, he or she receives a login ID and password for the virtual classroom in the iCollege course management system. As students accomplish the assignments, teachers get to know them through online interaction. Students are also able to interact with other students via online discussion boards and even voice discussion. Some instructors utilize a “live classroom”—where students and instructors can interact online in real time.

Exams generally are taken online during limited time allotments, and students must log in at designated times for testing. Still, most of the instruction is asynchronous, meaning students log in on their own schedules. While some GPC students take some online classes, about 2,400 take all their courses online. Seventy to 85 percent of these students are female. Clearly, the online classes provide a great option for busy moms.

Students working toward GPC degrees take the online classes offered by GPC, but the classes also have become popular with students from various counties in Georgia, states outside Georgia and even countries outside the United States. Military personnel overseas also make use of the flexibility of online coursework.

GPC began offering online courses in the late 1990s, but the program began experiencing major growth in 2006. “Our enrollment has continued to grow at a pace of 30 to 40 percent over the past two years,” says Griffin. “We are working to recruit top-notch faculty and student services professionals to keep pace with this growth and provide our online students with excellence in the online classroom.” Currently, GPC has about 30 faculty members who teach exclusively online, and about twice as many who teach some online classes. With such a high level of flexibility and offerings, GPC Online is turning many students’ career dreams into reality.


The Specifics

Degrees Online:
10 assoc. degrees
(transfer to any Univ. System of GA school)
Students in Online Program:
Tuition/Credit Hour:
$99 (in state & out of state)

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