Technology Links Students in Different Schools Video Link Lets High Schoolers Take Upper-Level, College Classes without Leaving Own Campus
Hart, Christie, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Kaye Corrigan's accounting students have no trouble reconciling the statistics of her classroom, but a quick look would make most people feel like they're working an unsolvable riddle.
The Naperville Central High School teacher has 15 students in her second-year advanced accounting course, but only nine are actually from Central.
Something doesn't add up when you look at those figures from the perspective of a traditional classroom.
But Corrigan's accounting class isn't exactly traditional.
It's on the leading edge of a movement linking high school students to the courses they need and want, even if the classes are taught in another school or college in Illinois.
More and more, suburban high schools are sharing their teachers through the power of video technology and distance learning to let students take classes they wouldn't get if they were confined to their school's course listings.
Central's accounting class, for instance, not only takes in three students who bus over from Naperville North, but also goes out to three others taking the course via a video feed with Downers Grove South.
"The biggest application has been at the college level, but we'll be doing more next year with the high schools than ever before," said Marilyn Lester, executive director of the West Suburban Post-Secondary Consortium, which coordinates distance learning for schools throughout DuPage and western Cook counties.
"Distance learning is now a fixture in Illinois," she said.
This school year, six courses are zipping through the network lines between high schools. Educators are pitching 26 courses for the fall, Lester said.
Most of the classes, like the accounting program, would be upper-level courses such as Spanish 5, calculus 3 and advanced placement macroeconomics. They're the kinds of courses a relatively small number of students in a high school would want to take and could benefit from.
High schools, though, rarely can justify setting aside a classroom and blocking out a period in a teacher's day for a class that appeals to just a few students. Administrators cancel courses if enrollment dips too low.
"If you don't have about 20 (students), you're not going to have the class. Numbers-wise, it's tough to get 20 students interested in taking some of these advanced courses," Corrigan said. "We might have been able to teach it anyway, but there are three kids in Downers Grove who want to have the class and wouldn't have gotten it without distance learning."
Through distance learning connections, schools can gather enough students so that it still makes economic sense to teach the course.
As a result, students are getting more course options than their high school could offer on its own, Lester said.
Many high schools in DuPage are affiliated with the West Suburban consortium, although not all are sending and receiving courses yet.
The consortium is one of 10 regional networks set up in 1992 by the Illinois higher education board. The coalition connects colleges and high schools in the College of DuPage, Triton and Morton community college districts. The schools share programs without charge; the school where the course originates pays the teacher. …