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Southwest Texas College Taps Online Learning to Increase Access to Higher Education for Rural Texans

UVALDE, TEX. (September 12,2023) -- Southwest Texas Junior College—a public community college serving as  a regional "open door"institution in an 11-county area that stretches from the Texas Hill Country to the US-Mexican border—today announced an ambitious new initiative to enhance its online offerings and greatly increase the number of online courses and certificates available to students in rural Texas. In collaboration withDallas-based instructional design firm iDesign, the college has developed a suite of new online courses spanning STEM, humanities, social sciences and more.

“Because we serve rural learners and communities across tens of thousands of square miles, we know distance can be a significant barrier for students,” said Mark Underwood, Ph.D. vice president of academic affairs at Southwest Texas Junior College. “This is about leveraging technology to close the digital divide and meet the needs of the rural learners and communities of Southwest Texas. It’s about giving faculty access to cutting-edge services and tools to create rich and rigorous online courses that can meet the needs of students and employers throughout the region.”

Statewide, rural Texas students graduate high school at a higher rate than their urban peers, but only 28% of rural high school graduates have college degrees compared to 41% of those in urban areas. Rural students face additional barriers to degree and credential completion: rural counties account for 97% of U.S. land, but they are home to just 14% of U.S.colleges and universities. Nationally, more than 21 million adults living in rural counties have not yet completed a college degree.

To build the suite of new online courses, Southwest Texas Junior College has selected independent instructional design firm iDesign, which has worked with more than 100 institutions to design, build and support award-winning online courses. A team of faculty experts and instructional designers from iDesign is working to create these new online courses, with a focus on helping students build skills in high-demand industries. Once completed, each course will use cutting-edge teaching methods and professional production coupled with rich and interactive video content.

To help the college greatly increase its capacity to deliver courses online, the Instructional DesignSupport Center (IDSC) provides faculty with real-time access to instructional design and online teaching support. The center will help meet the diverse needs of faculty, whose course loads, disciplines, and experience-level with online teaching vary widely.

Throughout the academic year, more than 100 faculty members will receive access to facilitated training in online instruction, a hub of resources to support online teaching and course design, templates for use within the learning management system and à la carte access to instructional design support services and troubleshooting.

“Closing the digital education divide and increasing economic mobility are two sides of the same coin. We need to put education and skills within reach for every community, and that’s exactly what you can expect Southwest Texas Junior College to do,” saidJared Brueckner, senior vice president of iDesign. “Texas community colleges are setting a new standard for how rural colleges can deploy online and digital learning to help students gain access to good-paying jobs near the communities they call home.”


About Southwest Texas Junior College: Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC) isa regional, "open door" institution serving an 11-county area that stretches from the Texas Hill Country to the US-Mexican border. The main campus is located in Uvalde, a city of 15,000 located in the foothills of Texas HillCountry. Uvalde is approximately 70 miles west of San Antonio and 70 miles east of the Mexican border. Additional campuses are located in the border cities ofDel Rio and Eagle Pass, and the college also operates instructional facilities in Crystal City, Pearsall, and Hondo. SWTJC provides online instruction and distance education links to twenty-two school districts. No other state community college provides educational resources in an area this large.

About iDesign:

iDesign partners with colleges and universities to build, grow and support online and blended programs. We are passionate about helping faculty harness the potential of emerging technologies to design courses and degrees that make an impact, whether they are fully online, flipped, blended, adaptive, or competency-based. Our unbundled, fee-for-service model is rooted in a commitment to flexibility and institutional autonomy, while our analytics platform supports continuous improvement through rigorous measurement of student engagement and course quality. From statewide university systems to private colleges, our custom solutions pair instructional design with technologies to enable great teaching. To learn more, please visit