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Lakeland College expands ways students can take classes

Dec. 20, 2013

To say that Octave Rouege is busy is an understatement.

The Greenfield transplant from Mississippi works full time, participates 12 to 16 hours each week with a local nonprofit and is working toward his Master of Business Administration degree from Lakeland College through its center in West Allis.

“So when it comes to actually studying, I have to do it at very odd times,” Rouege said. “Sometimes it’s at night. Sometimes it’s early in the morning before work. Sometimes at lunch.”

Rouege said his workload is alleviated by Lakeland’s adult education program through the college’s BlendEd feature.

“I don’t think I’d be able to do it without BlendEd,” Rouege said. “With my full-time schedule, (BlendEd) does come in handy to be able to study on the fly.”

It’s that flexibility that has students like Rouege excited. Lakeland is expanding its BlendEd feature this spring with several new ways to take a class.

Lakeland launched BlendEd in 2005 with classes that allowed students to seamlessly transition from week to week between the traditional classroom and online. Now, the college has developed three more ways for students to take classes.

“We have yet to find a program that provides students with this much flexibility within a single class,” said Zach Voelz, vice president for Lakeland’s Evening, Weekend and Online program. “Many colleges and universities around the country offer students different pieces of our program.”

Lakeland also centers in Chippewa Falls, Green Bay, Madison, Neenah, Sheboygan and Wisconsin Rapids. This fall, approximately 2,850 students were taking classes.

Voelz said the push for more options has come from students like Rouege who are shopping the higher education market for programs that don’t require major lifestyle changes.

“Working adults want quality academic programs offered in flexible formats,” Voelz said. “It is forcing higher education to be creative in the ways we make classes available to students.”

Lakeland piloted the expanded BlendEd in the spring of 2013, and Voelz said feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Many students really love the opportunity to attend a live class without having to leave home,” Voelz said. “We heard from students who had time to have dinner with their family, then logon to class without having to travel.”

Voelz said he often shares two student stories when discussing BlendEd with prospective students:

• A Lakeland graduate student who travels regularly for his job (he is a pilot for a major manufacturer) loves the ability to log in to a live course from his hotel room.

• Another graduate student was admitted to the hospital unexpectedly during the middle of a term. He didn’t want to miss class, however, so he logged in to a live class from his hospital bed.

Voelz said students also like getting live, online access to classes that, in the past, might have been only offered at a center in another part of the state. “Our new features are stripping away the geographic barrier for students,” Voelz said. “Students have said the savings in time and money was much appreciated.”

Count Rouege as being appreciative.

“If it’s a snowy day in Milwaukee, sometimes you just have to stay home and learn your lesson online,” he said. “If the weather’s nice and you feel like getting out and talking to other people, it’s really nice to be able to go to class.

“I love it. It’s very flexible with my full-time schedule,” he said.

Lakeland’s entrée into programming for working adults began in 1978 with the creation of its Lifelong Learning Program, the state’s first evening degree-completion program for working adults. Lakeland created one of the nation’s first complete online degree programs in 1998.

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"Hidden Tosa" is a semi-regular feature where reporters Rory Linnane or Rachel Minske explore the closed down and closed off parts of Wauwatosa.

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