Columbia College's Online Campus celebrates 10 years of continuous growth and improvement

Anniversary marked by Governor Nixon's proclamation.

The Columbia College Online Campus is 10 years old this month. To recognize the institution’s accomplishments, Governor Jeremiah Nixon has proclaimed the month of October as “Columbia College Online Education Month." Festivities will take place on Oct. 27 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Online Education Center, located at 310 N. 10th St., Columbia, Mo., just one block south of Rogers Gate, in Columbia, Mo.

"I am pleased and gratified by this proclamation," said Dr. Gerald Brouder, Columbia College president. "It confirms the convenience, growth and dynamism of the Columbia College Online Campus in the last ten years. In today's hectic, 24/7 environment, flexible learning arrangements such as online offer the most flexibility and value for today's students."

The Online Campus started small in 2000, with 10 courses taught by nine different instructors and 185 enrollments in the first session.

During the 2009-2010 academic year, nearly 21,000 students took at least one online course; of these, 6,680 students were exclusively Online Campus students. Students were enrolled from every state and 17 nations. There are currently 20 online degrees offered, including seventeen associate and bachelor’s degrees, and three master’s degrees in business, criminal justice and teaching. With only some exceptions, all Columbia College undergraduate degrees are offered online. The college has about 400 adjunct faculty scattered around the country, and a third of the full-time faculty also teach online.

The Online Campus is now the college's largest, fastest-growing adult venue. In fact, the Online Campus had the highest enrollment figures for 2010. Earlier this year, its offices physically moved from a cramped two-story building on Rangeline to a gleaming new 11,000 square foot structure on 10th Street that includes the main campus testing center and a 48-station computing lab.

Banking and trucking: two students' perspectives
"I took two years off to work full-time and then realized that my career wasn’t going anywhere," said Ashley Thompson'10, a senior loan processor at Boone County National Bank. "Any job I was interested in required a college degree. When I found out Columbia College had an online degree program, I realized I could work full-time, gaining more experience, while finishing my college degree at the same time."

Dr. Gary Massey, dean for Adult Higher Education, uses a story about a long-distance trucker to illustrate the convenience of Columbia College’s online campus.

“He stated he had wanted to attend college for a long time,” said Massey. “Most truck stops now have accessible Wi-Fi for students to complete their coursework while on the road. This opportunity allowed the trucker to seek a higher education while maintaining his occupation.”

Michele Smolik, director of instructional technology at Columbia College, has nearly ten years experience supporting students and faculty in online learning environments at Columbia College, the University of Missouri and for the state of Missouri.

"I think online schooling is a great alternative for many individuals," said Smolik. "You don't have to commute to a physical campus and can access your courses from anywhere. It is ideal for working adults who have taken some courses through the traditional system and now want to complete a bachelor's or a graduate degree without taking any time off work.

"At the same time, online education is not for everyone -- you have to have a certain level of maturity and self-motivation, since you have to juggle coursework with job and family responsibilities. It demands a great deal of individualized work and you have to manage your schedule to meet class requirements rather than attend at a specific time of the week."
The Columbia College Online Campus is led by Michael Grissom, assistant dean for Adult Higher Education and Online Campus. Grissom earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in teaching from Webster University in Webster Groves, Mo. Prior to joining the college, he served as associate vice president for information technology at Fontbonne University.

For more information about the Online Campus, go to