At North Fremont and South Fremont high schools the opportunity to take college level courses has expanded with the ability to virtually replicate the college classroom experience.
Fremont Joint School District 215 partnered with Idaho State University to create virtual classrooms that teach ISU courses, where students can attend inside of a classroom at their high school. Students can enroll in ISU courses and videoconference into ISU lectures.
Both schools have a dedicated classroom space with two video monitors, donated by Blackfoot Communications, the internet service provider for the district. The equipment was installed and will be maintained by Voltstar Productions.
Holly Kartchner, director of Outreach & Retention at the College of Arts and Letters at ISU, said this program was started to help students in rural areas get college course experience.
“The goal is to provide rural students access to college courses level that may not be available in their high school,” she said. ““Rural students in southeast Idaho deserve the same opportunities to realize their goals that urban students in big cities have,” she said.
Students can take the classes using Fast Forward money from the State of Idaho, which gives students attending public school in Idaho $4,125 to use towards overload courses, dual credits, college credit-bearing examinations, work force training courses, and professional certification examinations.
The classes at ISU available for students include courses in the calculus, sociology, anthropology, art, communication, English and history fields of study, among others.
A benefit of this technology is the authentic experience of a college class, Kartchner said. While students may not physically be in a college classroom, the technology gives students the opportunity to participate and engage in lectures as if they were in the classroom.
“I was a high school dual enrollment teacher, and I felt like I did a really good job but I couldn’t give my students the college classroom feeling of being in a room with adults,” she said. “It’s much more interactive and more realistic than sitting in front of a laptop or going to a distance learning center where you have to push down on a microphone.”
Daniel Shelden, ISU associate lecturer, said high school students often come in to his courses with some nervousness. He found the best way to help them overcome it is by him treating them like college students.
An advantage of a program like this is it tears down some misconceptions students may have about college, he said. Students can establish relationships with faculty and know there’s a friendly face to help them succeed.
“If you treat them like college students and how they want to be treated, they pick up very quickly,” Shelden said. “Some of these students are my best students.
Students now have more options for classes that align with their interests, said Chris Tucker, South Fremont High vice principal.
“I just like the idea that there’s so many classes available,” Tucker said. “Because those screens are so big, it’s like you’re there.”
District Superintendent Bryon Stutzman said this partnership was established to help the district’s goal of serving high-achieving kids to get them started on a career path.
“When they graduate high school, there is a possibility they graduate with an associate’s or a degree of some sorts depending on their interest,” he said.