More than 6,000 students click their way through virtual reality science labs at Rio Salado College.
From the comfort of their home students study chemical reactions and view microscopic specimens through the lens of a high powered microscope in a dozens or so biology, chemistry, anatomy and microbiology classes.
They gaze at the stars in astronomy, examine rock specimens for geology, study genetics in allied health and dissect cadavers in a virtual lab as part of Rio Salado’s extensive online science and health classes.
Instead of spending hours gloved up with protective eyewear in a lab filled with strong smelling chemicals, students work at their kitchen table or view a computer screen.
“All they have to do is click and learn. We take the extra time to get everything set so they can spend time on content,” said Shannon Corona, residential faculty at Rio Salado College.
“We cover the same content as the other colleges, we just do it online,” said Corona.
Unlike surrounding colleges, where finding an open biology or anatomy class can be near impossible, Rio Salado’s health and science classes are always open and start throughout the semester.
“In the first couple months of a semester we start class every two weeks, the last two months start dates go to once a month,” said Corona. Students who are turned off by smells or doing the live dissection enjoy the online labs, said Corona.
According to Corona there is a huge demand for human anatomy and physiology, chemistry and microbiology, classes required before students enter nursing, dental hygiene and other related health programs.
Classes are also available in health related subjects like medical terminology, health care delivery and wellness and safety. Rio Salado student Kristin Lannucci’s goal is to someday be a nurse. She’s been diligently working on her goal for more than five years, chipping away on a long list of prerequisites while caring for her four children ranging in age from eight to one.
She’s nearly done, having completed all her medical prerequisites online at Rio Salado College.
“It thought it would be a lot easier for my family to do my classes online,” said Lannucci, who found she got just as much out of the online labs as she did those in person.
“I love the college and the opportunity to take classes online,” said Lannucci.
Even students thousands of miles away find the college’s online classes a great benefit.
Student Mark Sussman completed 32 credits including his prerequisites to enter physician assistant school while on active duty for the military in Afghanistan.
“It’s a great way for a soldier to get ahead without the hassles of going to night school,” said Sussman.
Students who are self-motivated, comfortable about asking questions and have good time management skills do well in online classes, said Cornona.
Students can enroll in classes now. Rio Salado College, one of 10 fully-accredited Maricopa County community colleges serving Phoenix and its surrounding communities, has long been recognized as a leader in providing distant-learning instruction. Located in Tempe, Ariz., Rio Salado has 450 online classes with start dates every week. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to www.riosalado.edu/registration