Online classes popular with some East Tennessee college students

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- With gas prices skyrocketing, you don't want to drive if you don't have to. But for those of you investing in your future by going to college, the commute to class has always been part of the deal.

But what if you can get the same college credit without having to drive to class and paying for gas?

Online classes have been growing in popularity for years, and, now, high gas prices are fueling an online enrollment explosion.

Amanda Walton may look like she's just enjoying the sunshine on a park bench, but she's actually getting a college education. She is one of a growing number of students at Pellissippi State and other colleges who learn without being tied down to a class schedule.

Amanda says, "I think I've probably taken, at Pellissippi, six or seven classes over the last several years. If I could take all of the classes that I have left online, I would."

Amanda is an education major, but she's been able to go to school while working full-time at a bank. Something she says would never have been possible if she'd had to drive to class everyday.

She says, "I think it's a great option for people who are working full-time jobs to take the classes whenever it's convenient for them. Most of the studying I do is at eleven o'clock at night and obviously there aren't classes in the traditional classroom setting at eleven o’clock at night."

Julia Wood with Pellissippi State says, "Our online courses have been growing every semester and they are so large now that we almost consider them a fifth campus."

The growth now may be less about convenience and more about making ends meet. By avoiding trips to campus, students also make less of those dreaded trips to the gas station.

Amanda says, "With gas prices being what they are, I think that distance learning is definitely going to be something that becomes more popular in the coming years."

Online classes may not be for everyone, though. Some students may like the structure of a traditional class schedule.

Those we talked to say taking classes at your computer is not as lonely as you might think. They say professors are a phone call away, and other students often e-mail to discuss what they're learning.

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