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Hockessin Community News
  • Smarter learning at a distance with Distance Labs in Red Clay

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  • The Distance Learning labs in the Red Clay schools are more than just an attempt at an ultramodern classroom – they’re also a way to expand learning opportunities beyond the classroom.
     Now in its fourth year at McKean High School, Alexis I. DuPont High School and the Conrad School of Science, the Distance Learning labs are expanding their offerings by increasing their partnership with Delaware Technical Community College and other universities in the future.
    LEARNING AT A DISTANCE
    Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jim Comegys said that when pulling together a master schedule, he often encounters a course that a only a small number of students districtwide are interested in taking – which, in most cases, means the course cannot be offered.
    “With the way funding works, and with the economy the way it is, you really have to stretch every dollar. You can’t offer a course to one student,” Comegys said.
    Using a digital projector and a multifaceted screen, the labs allow the district to pull students together from multiple schools, and unite them in one virtual classroom that allows the students to interact with both a live instructor and with one another. 
    “It justifies us offering courses that their interested in – and it could really be something that could help with their college career,” he said.
    “It offers students a way to learn in a 20th Century manner,” said Conrad principal Mark Pruitt. “Online, and with technology that they’re getting early exposure to the learning they’ll likely get in college.”
    It also allows the district the chance to take a teacher with a particular skillset and utilize that skill throughout the district.
    “While AI DuPont High School doesn’t have a teacher with the expertise to teach a college level sociology course, we do,” Pruitt said. “It’s about maximizing physical resources as much as personnel.”
    LEARNING IN THE FUTURE
    Sam Golder, director of secondary schools, said that of the 140 students signed up in 2014-14 for dual enrollment, roughly a third of them are part of the Distance Labs program.
    They also have full course loads for the lab at DuPont and Conrad, and a half-schedule of learning at Mckean, triangulated on the main screen for high school students throughout the district. 
    “It’s been real successful for us, and DelTech’s been great,” he said, adding that DelTech offers the courses to the district at a discount that leave most students paying only $100 per course.
    Page 2 of 2 - “So you’re talking about a three-credit course for $100 – and most people know how much a three-credit course costs,” Golder said.
    Conrad offers three unique courses that attract students from around the district: sociology, legal bio-ethics and AP human geography.  
    And, like the other schools, the chance for expansion is almost limitless – as in a pre-law course by DuPont’s dual enrollment program in conjunction with DelTech starting in the fall.  
    For Pruitt, the program has been nothing but a success, improving grade point averages and increasing the number of students and grades participating in the program.
    “Kids from multiple high schools are earning college and advanced placement credit,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier.”
    While the program comes with some logistical issues from time to time – principals have to coordinate their teachers’ schedules in ways they never did before – the benefits outweigh any growing pains Golder said they’re experienced in the past three years.
    “It’s caused us all to work together in a collaborative way to be at our best with this thing,” Golder said.
    “It’s a strong program that’s only going to get stronger,” Comegys said. “It’s adding to all of our schools.”
     

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