Anne Arundel Community College students are turning their homes into classrooms in record numbers this year, giving the college the state's highest enrollment for telecourse instruction.
Most of the 900 registered students are like Kelly Hokanson, a working mother who is going back to school.
"I think it's great," said Ms. Hokanson, 32, who watches two of her five classes on Maryland Public Television. "Everything I've experienced through telecourses has been excellent."
The telecourse program is designed for women such as Ms. Hokanson, said Mary Barnes, coordinator of special sessions.
"Their lives are forcing them to come back to school," she said. "Some find that they need a degree to get a good job. Some find that they need a degree to get promoted."
The community college's telecourse program started in 1982. This fall, 34 courses are being broadcast over Maryland Public Television and local cable stations. The school charges an extra $35 per telecourse, which goes to buy the license needed to record the classes on videotape. The school does not make a profit on the telecourses.
The telecourses are a blessing for Ms. Hokanson of Arnold, mother of an 8-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. She works 15 hours a week at her work-study job in the public relations office.
"The attraction for me is that it opens up my daily schedule," said Ms. Hokanson, a paralegal major. "Instead of sitting in a classroom for an hour and a half, I can watch it whenever I want. I have to pick up my children from the nursery at a certain time, I have to work 15 hours here every week, and I have other classes to attend. This is just convenient."
Lisa Darden of Stevensville on Kent Island has taken one telecourse in each of her six semesters. In that time, she's learned to juggle the needs of her 40-hour-a-week job at the school's business office and her 5-year-old daughter.
"With my working, obviously I can't take classes during the day, and with my daughter being so young and in day care all day, I'd feel guilty if I was away at class every night," said Mrs. Darden, who is taking a Western Civilization telecourse and two other on-campus classes. "This adds flexibility, and it doesn't take away from my job or my daughter . . . I can still tuck her in at night."
When the telecourse program started 13 years ago, six courses were offered and about 150 students were enrolled, said Mrs. Barnes. Today, telecourses are so popular that the college publishes a separate booklet for students interested in the program.
Maryland Public Television broadcasts 10 of the school's 35 courses. The other 25 are transmitted over Jones Intercable and Intermedia on Channels 1 and Channel 99 and TCI Cable of Annapolis on Channel 20.
Students who miss a broadcast can view a videotape of the class at the library, or borrow the tape and watch it at their own convenience.
"It's gotten to the point where I don't even bother watching the class on cable," said Mrs. Darden. "I just go over to the library and borrow the tapes and watch them over the weekend at home."
Midterm and final exams are held on campus and at testing centers at Fort Meade and Arundel Center North.
Discipline is a requirement with the courses.
"You have to be very disciplined," Mrs. Hokanson said. "You can't think that this class is any easier [than an on-campus class] because you don't have to report to a teacher. You have to be disciplined in getting your work done."