Office of Distance Education

About the Office of Distance Education
The Office of Distance Education at College of the Ouachitas is funded by a Title III grant under the Strengthening Institutions Program.

Contact Information
Chris Robbins, Director
(501) 332-0290
crobbins [at]
Office: G205

Aurora Adney, Technical Specialist
(501) 332-0297
aadney [at]
Office: A305

Ronna Pennington, Support Specialist
(501) 332-0296
rpennington [at]
Office: G204

Online Degrees and Programs

Associate of Arts – General Education
Associate of Applied Science – Early Childhood Education (includes a practicum requirement)
Certificate of General Studies

In addition to the Associate of Arts – General Education, Associate of Applied Science – Early Childhood Education, and Certificate of General Studies programs that can be completed entirely online, many of COTO’s degree and certificate programs require courses that are available online. Online courses are easy to find on the class schedule. Just look for the word ONLINE in the location category. You may also restrict your class search to online courses only when searching the class schedule.

See a complete list of degree/certificate programs here.

Online Courses and Schedule*

Tuition and Fees


Blackboard Hands-On Training for Students
If you’re new to online learning, this 1 to 1 ½ hour session will give you the confidence you need to successfully upload assignments, post discussions, take
quizzes, etc.

Next sessions:  Friday, May 18, 9:30 to 11 a.m., G203 Computer Lab
                        Tuesday, May 22, 5:30 to 7 p.m., G203 Computer Lab


  • Second cohort appointed, January 2018
  • Title III and members of the first cohort present at the Arkansas Community Colleges conference, October 2017
  • First cohort completes Quality Matters training, August 2017

Student Resources
COTO’s Office of Distance Education is committed to your success. These resources will be important to your enrollment in our online classes:




Financial Aid

Payment Options

Technical Requirements
Today’s technology makes staying connected to your online classes easier than ever; however, it’s important to have the correct technology to make your online learning smooth and seamless. You will need:

  • A computer operating system of Windows 7 or Mac OSX 10.8 or higher. Windows 10 or Mac OC 10.12 are recommended. Opening the Blackboard Browser Checker automatically checks whether your browser and operating system are supported.
  • A 1 Ghz processor with at least 512 MB RAM and 5 GB free disk space.
  • Monitors with resolution of at least 1024 X7 68
  • Java (a free download).
  • Adobe Flash Player may be required to watch videos within Blackboard. You can download it free.

Technology experience: Students should be able to upload documents, copy and paste text from one document to another, and check course messages (similar to checking email). Hands-on Blackboard Orientation is available on-campus prior to each semester for those who need help.

Students must use their COTO email address to log in to access their courses in Blackboard.

For technical help with COTO email, Blackboard, or Self-Service, contact the IT Helpdesk.

Smarter Measure*
The Smarter Measure Online Readiness is a self-assessment tool that helps students recognize their strengths and weaknesses regarding self-motivation and self-discipline, persistence, time management skills, on-screen reading rate and recall, ability to use technology (laptop, printer, software, and Internet), and typing speed and accuracy. All these attributes contribute to success for online students. There is no pass/fail grade, but students may use the assessment details to help them pinpoint and strengthen any weaknesses they may have in terms of online learning. Some advisors may require students to take the assessment before recommending their enrollment in online classes.

Students must log in to Blackboard to access the course called Student Orientation to Blackboard. There, click on the menu tab called Online Readiness to get to the Smarter Measure self-assessment.

Blackboard Resources
Online classes at College of the Ouachitas are delivered using the Blackboard learning management system. There are a variety of resources online, but hands-on training sessions are held for students the week prior to classes starting in the Fall, Spring, and Summer 10-week sessions. Check Announcements for upcoming sessions.

Student Orientation to Blackboard*
All students are enrolled in an online “course” called Student Orientation to Blackboard and Resources. There is no cost for the course and no grade or credit is awarded. Some instructors may assign completion of the course for a grade in their class. The course is designed to help students new to online learning and the Blackboard learning management system. The course also contains information about and links to resources the student may need or find helpful as a COTO student, such as links to free online tutoring, various student services, and additional Blackboard help.

Blackboard Login

Student Handbook

Faculty and Staff Resources

Faculty and staff have a number of resources available to help them aid online students. All faculty members are enrolled in a Blackboard course shell called Faculty Resources. It contains policy information, Blackboard help for instructors, the Blackboard Browser Check, pedagogical resources, and a Netiquette presentation you may share with your online/hybrid classes.

Training Opportunities*
The Title III Office of Distance Education offers a variety of training opportunities for students and faculty throughout the year.

Cohorts selected to earn Quality Matters certifications will receive extensive training in course design using the Blackboard learning management system. All faculty/staff members who require training or want to update their skills in Blackboard may schedule training sessions with Aurora Adney, Distance Education Technical Specialist, at ext. 1197.

Faculty and staff needing assistance with the Read & Write accessibility software should contact Ronna Pennington, Distance Education Support Specialist, at ext. 1196.

Faculty Handbook

Policies and Procedures

     Distance Learning Policies, COPP 4.09
     Complete College Operating Policies and Procedures

Legal Information




Title III*
College of the Ouachitas received a Title III grant under the Strengthening Institutions Program. The five-year grant, awarded in 2016, provides $2.2 million to improve distance-delivered instruction.

Grant Information
College of the Ouachitas’ Title III grant project, “Increasing Access and Success,” was developed to improve distance-delivered instruction and support services. The five year grant was awarded in 2016 and provides for $449,900 per fiscal year for programs and training that leads to improved accessibility and student success in online courses.

View Grant

Grant Budget

Operations Manual

Course Development Priorities
Title III funds training for instructors who then build new online courses for College of the Ouachitas. Instructors earn their Quality Matters and Blackboard certifications, then build improved distance education courses to meet those standards.

Year 1 (Classes available Spring 2018): World Literature III, Civilization through the 16th Century, Principles of Management, Word Processing, Psychology, Quantitative Literacy

Year 2 (Classes available Spring 2019): State and Local Government, Oral Communication, Civilization since the 16th Century, World Literature I, Small Business Management, New Distance Course (Health Sciences), Sociology, Biology, Microbiology

Year 3 (Classes available Spring 2020): US History Since 1865, Spreadsheet Applications, Abnormal Psychology, Student Opportunities Seminar, 2 New Distance Courses

Year 4 (Classes available Spring 2021): Arkansas History, Theater, Principles of Microeconomics, Intro to Early Childhood Development, 2 New Distance Courses

Classroom Upgrades
Title III funds technology upgrades for two classrooms per year for five years.

Year 1: A305, Center for Excellence in Technology (lecture capture equipment, training center, and recording studio)
A304, lecture capture equipment and remodeled classroom

Year 2: G102 and H108

Year 3: TBD

Year 4: TBD

Year 5:  TBD

Internal Review Committee
Members: Pat Simms, Vice President for Academic Affairs; Tricia Baar, Dean of Learning, Arts & Sciences/Applied Science Technology; Dana Brownfield, Administrative Specialist and Grants Analyst; Keesha Johnson, Director of Enrollment Management; Allison Malone, Director of Learning Resources; Chris Robbins, Director of Distance Education; Kim Roberson, Director of Ouachita Career Center; Mason Robinson, Director of Workforce Development, Randy Morris, Director of Adult Education, and Melinda Sanders, Dean of Health Sciences


Title III Task Force
Members: Pat Simms, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Chris Robbins, Director of Distance Education; Dana Brownfield, Administrative Specialist and Grants Analyst; Keesha Johnson, Director of Enrollment Management; Aurora Adney, Technical Specialist; Ronna Pennington, Support Specialist; Carlos Miller, Director of Computer Services


Title III Newsletter

Faculty Cohorts
A new six-member faculty cohort is selected for each Title III grant year to receive the Quality Matters and Blackboard training they will use to improve online courses.

Cohort 1 (2017-2018): Patty Weak, Jessica Beard, Cathy Boyett, Sean Elkin, Jason Hancock, Ronna Pennington

Cohort 2 (2018-2019): Shawna Oliver, Christi Nation, Lisa Wood, Bob Starkey, Lisa Irwin, Melinda Sanders

Training Schedule
Blackboard Hands-On Training for Students
If you’re new to online learning, this 1 to 1 ½ hour session will give you the confidence you need to successfully upload assignments, post discussions, take quizzes, etc.

Next sessions:  Friday, May 18. 9:30 to 11 a.m., G203 Computer Lab
Tuesday, May 22, 5:30 to 7 p.m., G203 Computer Lab

Quality Matters
Quality Matters’ Mission is to:

“Promote and improve the quality of online education and student learning nationally and internationally through:

  • Development of current, research-supported, and practice-based quality standards and appropriate evaluation tools and procedures.
  • Recognition of expertise in online education quality assurance and evaluation.
  • Fostering a culture of continuous improvement by integrating QM standards and processes into organizational plans to improve the quality of online education.
  • Providing professional development in the use of rubrics, tools and practices to improve the quality of online education.
  • Peer review and certification of quality in online education.”

*This initiative funded by U.S. Department of Education Title III Grant. Award number P031A160276 – 17.

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