BlendEd at Central Wisconsin Center
As Aaron and Valerie Homolka advanced through their careers, they felt the time was right to return to school for their Master of Business Administration degrees.
The couple from Marshfield researched their options and felt drawn to Lakeland College. The flexibility of online classes, coupled with the convenience of sites in Central Wisconsin, were major factors, Aaron Homolka said.
"With having a family, it wasn't going to be convenient to have to travel to class," he said. "It's very easy for us to make night classes after work and still make that balance between family and school. Flexibility was critical."
It's that flexibility that has students like the Homolkas excited. Lakeland is taking its BlendEd feature within its adult education program to another level 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."
Learn more about the additional class options with the new BlendEd.
Voelz said the push to expand choices has come from students like the Homolkas 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 login 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 the Homolkas as being appreciative. Valerie attended one of her classes remotely and "still got the feel of being in a classroom and got that personal attention," Aaron Homolka said of his wife. "It was certainly a successful way of getting that education."
Lakeland's 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.
This fall, approximately 2,850 students were enrolled. Lakeland has centers in Chippewa Falls, Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Neenah, Sheboygan and Wisconsin Rapids.