Special to the OBSERVER
School superintendents in Western New York say the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Distance Learning Network has proved instrumental in helping their students get a head start on college.
"We have had several students who have been able to enter college as sophomores. The tuition savings for their families is substantial, and the students have found themselves better prepared for the rigors of college," said Danielle O'Connor, Frewsburg Central School District superintendent.
Students from E2CCB component school districts that participate in the Distance Learning Program are earning hundreds of transferable college credits each year by enrolling in classes their high schools do not offer. A partnership between the E2CC BOCES and Jamestown Community College has added many classes to the list, and students in both Erie and Chautauqua County are able to take advantage of these dual-credit opportunities without paying a cent in college tuition. Final figures are not yet available for the current school year, but in 2010-11, students from participating school districts earned a total of 1,215 transferable college credits through the partnership with JCC alone. The cost of tuition would have been $63,180 but students were able to take these courses free of charge and carry the credits with them after graduation regardless of their post-secondary plans.
"The partnership with Jamestown Community College has enabled the Distance Learning Network to facilitate a far greater number of college-level course offerings for students from our component school districts," said Michael Bayba, E2CCB distance learning specialist. "Thanks to JCC and our participating districts, hundreds of students have been able to get a head start on college by graduating high school with transferable college credit and experience taking college-level classes."
The Distance Learning Network is part of the E2CCB School Support Services Division. Distance Learning classes are hosted at one high school and broadcast to others via state-of-the-art videoconferencing technology. Fax machines, email, and online instructional resources such as Moodle eliminate the need for students to be physically present in the same classrooms as their instructors. This has enabled hundreds of students from participating school districts to take classes not offered at their own high schools.
Through the E2CCB Distance Learning Network, students at Springville High School, for example, are currently taking six classes not offered at the school, such as a course on the Holocaust. Meanwhile, students from other participating school districts are taking a psychology class taught at Springville High School through the Distance Learning Network.
According to Vincent Vanderlip, Springville High School principal, his students are benefiting in two important ways from the district's participation in the E2CCB Distance Learning service. Students now have access to an expanded offering of courses since they can take classes taught at other schools but not taught at Springville High School. Additionally, Springville students are currently earning college credit by taking two JCC classes taught at Falconer High School Principles of Financial Accounting and Principles of Managerial Accounting.
"Distance Learning enables our students to get a jump-start on earning college credit, and these courses give them a taste of what college-level work is going to be like," Vanderlip said.
The same applies for Frewsburg High School in Chautauqua County. Dozens of students from high schools throughout Western New York are enrolled in a popular college-level sociology course taught by William McFarland, a social studies teacher at Frewsburg High School. At the same time, Frewsburg students have been able to enroll in college with a substantial number of college credits through a combination of advanced placement classes taught at the school and college-level Distance Learning courses.
Access to college-level classes at other high schools through the E2CCB Distance Learning Network has helped pave the way for an extraordinary opportunity for students the ability to actually earn an associate degree at the same time they graduate high school with their Regents Diploma without spending any money on tuition, room and board, and college fees.
According to Barbara Siemaszko, E2CCB school support services director, the opportunities available to students through the Distance Learning Network are continuing to grow and new courses are added every year, both high school-level and college-level.