Online or in-person? Having options and flexibility are key in new world of higher education

As a U.S. Army veteran, Jonathan Pearson is no stranger to adapting plans when conditions change.

In Fall 2019, the 29-year-old began working on his associate degree in occupational therapy assistant technology at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Middletown. He was taking about half of his prerequisite courses in person and half online.

Pearson liked the online courses for the convenience they offered. He also liked the in-person option for technical courses such as anatomy and physiology, “because it makes it easier when you have someone to bounce off questions and ideas.”

Then the pandemic hit. All of his classes went online, including anatomy and physiology. He had to adapt his learning strategy.

“I discovered a different learning technique, that by diving deeper into the text, you get a deeper learning,” Pearson said. “You have to be open to discovering new things about yourself.”

Colleges have also had to adapt to a new world of higher education.

As soon as the pandemic hit, Cincinnati State launched a college-wide effort to not only expand the number and type of its online course offerings, but also to enhance student support services.

Cincinnati State now offers three different types of online courses:

  • Web courses are traditional, self-paced online courses and do not require specific meeting times.
  • Live Web courses require instructors and students to meet online on a regular schedule just as if they were in person.
  • Hybrid courses are a mix of traditional web and live web that include regular meeting times, but not as frequently as live web.

Cincinnati State is also offering selected in-person courses that have been carefully planned to ensure adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local safety guidelines related to COVID-19:

Cincinnati State Middletown is offering in-person options in English composition, math, business management and other basic college subjects to help students who prefer in-person education get a solid foundation.

Selected in-person laboratory and technical skills courses are also available at the college’s Clifton and Harrison campuses.

To help enrolled students hone their online learning skills, the college offers a five-part, self-paced workshop. Cincinnati State is also offering personalized virtual advising and free tutoring options, as well as many other virtual and in-person services for students.

The goal of these enhancements is to meet the needs of the college’s highly diverse students, who range from high school students taking College Credit Plus courses, to recent high school and home school grads, to adults seeking a new career – many who also have jobs and families.

For example, Cincinnati State Middletown student Abbie Corrill is earning an associate of arts degree. Her goal is to become a social worker and probation officer. With a full-time job and a 6-year-old daughter, Abbie likes the flexibility of taking courses online. Not surprisingly, she found adding college to her already busy schedule a bit overwhelming at first. Now everything is working smoothly. Her advice for busy online students? “Do a little every day.”

Like Corrill, Jasmine Davis is a mom and has a full-time job. She is pursuing an associate of science degree at Cincinnati State Middletown as preparation to enter the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. Her goal is to be the first woman in her family’s funeral home business to become a licensed mortician.

“I prefer in-person classes because the interaction with instructors and classmates keeps me focused,” Jasmine said. “I was a bit worried when my chemistry class switched to online after the pandemic, but it worked out fine because we had Zoom meetings twice a week that made it more like a normal in-person class.”

Support for students Cincinnati State is an open-access college. Admission is quick and easy. For information about applying or to set up a virtual appointment, go online to or call Cincinnati State Middletown at 513-217-3900.

About the Author