The website Online Schools Guide rated Lincoln Trail College as the sixth-best online community college in the nation for 2022. They rated community colleges offering online or hybrid degree programs. Their rankings are based on the number of programs offered followed by cost, student reviews, and salary.
“LTC being sixth in the nation is a confirmation of all of the efforts that have been taking place here for the last over 50 years now and the culmination of all of the energy of the faculty and staff,” says Lincoln Trail College President Dr. Zahi Atallah. “It also is a reflection that despite the upheaval that the pandemic has thrown at us, that everybody here has not just strived for, but have achieved a high standard of education. Despite everything that was mounted and stacked against them.”
Dean of Instruction Brent Todd says the ranking comes as no surprise to him. “It confirms what I already know about not only Lincoln Trail College, but Illinois Eastern Community Colleges: we have qualified, experienced faculty and all of our classrooms, and that includes our online classrooms as well. So, again, this just confirms what I already knew, that we offer a quality education to our students.”
Todd says one of the reasons why LTC stands out is because the college uses the Quality Matters Rubric with online classes. It creates a series of standards for online classes, including that learning outcomes are incorporated into classes and that students and faculty members are aware of what those outcomes are.
Cyndi Boyce is a History and Social Science Assistant Professor at LTC and she says Quality Matters and training in Quality Matters makes sure that instructors can better improve their courses.
“We have to always be learning instructors. You can't just assign a course and say ‘this is good, I've created this awesome course and I'm going to leave it at that.’ Part of our assessment process is getting feedback from students on what worked and what didn't work. It's constantly trying to better our courses. If we're not trying to better ourselves then we just become kind of flat. If we want to increase student enrollment, if we want to increase student engagement and make the experience better for students, we have to constantly be trying to improve ourselves.”
LTC and IECC are already working on the process of taking good online courses and making them even better. They’re working with a company called Symbiosis to improve online classes.
“They basically take the quality that's already in our courses and they're making sure that we provide a seamless experience for our students,” says Todd. “So all of our courses will have the same formats so that students can easily
find the information they need. They can find their learning outcomes. They know where the syllabus is located. They know how to find the class rules and the expectations. They know where to find their assignments. And that's going to improve our online experience for students even more than what we already have.”
Atallah says having quality online instruction is very important. “I don't foresee a future where we're going to get rid of online education. I don't foresee us solely focusing on the face to face. But the more we can enhance the quality of our online instruction, whether it is synchronous or asynchronous, the more we're going to be in line with the demand of the market and our students.”