Since the first online class at SCC launched in 2001, the Distance Learning curriculum at Sampson Community College has grown rapidly. Before, there was just one class. Today, there are over 300 courses offered online each year.

Marion Pope, Director of Distance Learning, says that looking back over the data shows how dramatic the growth of the program has been. In 2006 and 2007, so few students took advantage of the courses, notes suggested complete suspension of the program.

Now, Pope says the program regularly “exceeds goals.”

Partly due to intentional goal setting and benchmarking put in place by the college to prioritize distance learning, the number of distance learning courses at SCC exploded from the 2017-2018 academic year to the 2018-2019 year. The number of courses offered increased by 18 percent.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, including Summer 2019, distance learning students made up 20 percent of the College’s total enrollment. Another goal is to see the number of online course offerings grow and increase by two percent each year.

There are no completely online programs at SCC yet. However, having so many online courses gives working students the opportunity to complete coursework. Part of the College’s 2019-2021 strategic plan proposes offering some completely online program options, but that has yet to happen.

Whether courses are online or face-to-face, students use Moodle, the College’s learning management system, to access classwork, announcements, and other assignments. (Cheyenne McNeill)

Students commonly have the misconception that online courses are effortless, but Pope says they can often be more rigorous. There are deadlines, the need for better time management. Much more of the responsibility is on the student.

Pope says, “The face-to-face factor isn’t there.”

Lew Gravis, Division Chair of Arts and Sciences, says that his programs want to accomplish academic rigor in every course. Because of his background as the former Director of Distance Learning, he created a special system for evaluating online courses.

Gravis noted, “We want to ensure academic rigor in our program. I have this check sheet that I collaborated with other people on that we use to evaluate all of our online courses to make sure that they are rigorous and conform to high standards.”

He encourages instructors to put meaningful material in their online courses so that students get the best out of each. Since online coursework must be self-motivated, it needs to be engaging as well.

This is why Pope often leads training and seminars with faculty and students. She says it’s her favorite part of the role. 

Pope said, “I enjoy helping them help each other and help themselves.”

Students with questions about distance learning at SCC can contact Marion Pope at or (910) 900-4074. Distance Learning at SCC can be found in the Academic Success Center on the ground floor of Kitchin Hall within the SCC Library.

About Sampson Community College: Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.