MARIETTA, OHIO— The newly redesigned Accounting Technology program at Washington State Community College is adding up to increased access for adult learners and working students.
When accounting associate professor Christina Gater began working for the college in 2019, she repeatedly saw students who, due to work and family obligations, couldn’t finish their degree, and many others who had the desire, but simply could not commit to the pursuit of a degree. “I recognized this struggle as an incredible opportunity for me because I knew I had the ability to improve the program and remove this barrier.”
Johnathon Carpenter is one of Gater’s students. As a salesperson at an automotive dealership in Caldwell, Ohio, Carpenter wanted to earn his degree, but needed to maintain his employment. He works throughout the week plus Saturdays, so flexibility was important. Gater’s program had several features that made it attractive to him as well as others in a similar situation.
The most notable benefit for working adults like Carpenter is that the classes are offered in a blended format, which means both in-person and online. “The blended night courses allow students to get what they need in the classroom, while completing most of the work when it best fits their own schedules,” described Gater. With the support of his employer, Carpenter has been able to adjust his work schedule to make it possible for him to take the classes he needs and have time to study. “I’m able to stay full-time [in college] and work because of online classes and blended classes. That’s huge,” Carpenter praised.
As she developed the program’s adult-friendly format, Gater knew from student feedback that many students would not be comfortable with completely online courses and they would be more confident about their studies with at least some classroom time. She also acknowledged that access to reliable internet can be a barrier, however she believes she has been able to address both issues by providing the bulk of the instruction during the face-to-face weekly classes.
The redesign also means that students need to carve out just one night a week for their face-to-face courses. The courses are condensed and delivered over 8-weeks which allows students to complete more courses during the traditional 16-week semester and graduate quicker. Carpenter, who is on target to graduate this spring, said this has been especially helpful because it allows him to maintain his full-time student status. Evening courses also allow students to create a schedule and stay on track to graduation without compromising their daytime work schedule. Moreover, many adult learners attend college at the request of their employer and “it is paramount that the college recognize the importance of that relationship in order to reduce the strain on students,” Gater added.
The results of the program redesign have been positive. Gater said the changes have increased enrollment and provided opportunities for students who were previously enrolled to return and complete their degrees.
WSCC is currently registering for the Spring semester through January 13. For more information on the accounting technology program, contact Christina Gater at 740.885.5724.