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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2010

High schoolers go to college online

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Call it a sign of our technology-driven times.

High school students eager to get a jump on their college studies before graduation are increasingly opting for higher-education courses online.

Although motivated high schoolers in the state have long had opportunities to study for college credit, that has usually meant taking courses on site at a local college or university.

These days, that's not always necessary.

"There was a time when we said no [to online learning for high schoolers] because we really felt the experience of face to face in the classroom was important," said Dermot Forde, associate director of advising and academic success at Bowling Green State University. "But some of these students today come to us with excellent technical skills, so we thought it was important to let them do that."

Although plenty of high school students still go for the face-to-face option when pursuing early college credits, many higher-education institutions have experienced substantial growth in demand for online courses.

Since BGSU began offering high schoolers the option of online learning two years ago, demand for those courses has grown significantly, Mr. Forde said. Out of 165 high school students who enrolled for college-level courses at BGSU last fall, around 30 percent opted for at least some online courses, he said.

At Owens Community College, more than a third of the 558 high school students taking courses last year were enrolled in a Web-based course, said Joe Carone, director of admissions and career services.

He said that when Owens introduced the online option to high schoolers five years ago, only a handful enrolled.

"I think the trend is getting more and more that way," Mr.

Carone said. "You've got technologically educated students who really know computer programs better than a lot of people, and they're very good at [studying online]."

The flexibility of online courses and the money saved by not having to drive to a campus to take classes are additional reasons for the growth, the director added.

There is one personality trait that is a must for students signing up for online courses, Mr. Carone said.

"They have to be a very disciplined person to take a Web course," he said. "As long as they stay on task and they do understand deadlines, I think they can handle it."

To ease high school students into learning online, Owens has partnerships in the Oak Harbor, Swanton, Otsego, and Napoleon districts where students take Web-based courses at the high school under teacher supervision, Ms. Carone said.

Next year, students at Notre Dame Academy in Toledo will be able to do the same through a partnership with the University of Toledo. Students there will choose from 23 of the university's Web-based courses, and work on them at the school.

"The advantage for our girls is they can stay on campus and won't miss out on any of the normal high-school activities," Principal Kim Grilliot said. "It allows the girls to get used to an online course and helps them decide whether they would choose to do one in college."

Getting experience in online learning can help high school students prepare for the realities of higher education, said Kevin Kucera, associate vice president for enrollment services at the University of Toledo.

"When a student has never taken an online course, there seems to be a natural propensity for the student to think, 'Oh the online course might be easier for me,'•" Mr. Kucera said. "But they find rather rapidly that there's a tremendous rigor and you really have to work hard to stay on top with the discussion boards and assignments."

Students who take college-level courses in high school are generally already top-performing students, administrators said. Many students take just one or two of these courses in high school, but some do much more.

"Now high school students are getting a semester or even a year of college under their belts even before they've left high school," Mr. Carone said. "It just gives them a great start."

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:

cbarrett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.



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