|Alissa Dimock gazes into her laptop and studies a litigation lesson from Los Angeles Mission College – all in the comfort of her South Pasadena bedroom.
Dimock has never met her professor. She's also never sat in his class or set eyes on her fellow paralegal students.
Instead, her studies rely on a virtual pedagogic exchange, tapped out every day on a keyboard 25 miles from the Sylmar campus.
"It's terrific," said Dimock, 44, seated next to a stack of law books. "I never have to go to school. It's great."
Her class, Law 11-Civil Litigation, is among the steadily growing number of online courses being taught at community colleges throughout Los Angeles and California. In fact, community colleges are leading the way in online education, with annual online enrollments growing about 20 percent nationally over the past few years.
The two-year colleges are following the successes of private universities like the University of Phoenix and National University that have conferred online degrees for years. They're also setting an example for four-year universities that are now kicking their online studies programs into high gear.
The growth in online learning is a response to the demands of a busy public, desperate to acquire new skills in a fast-changing jobs market that will make most Americans take on multiple careers throughout their lifetimes. And in Los Angeles, it's a reaction to traffic gridlock.