More county classrooms going online

Published 6:02 pm Friday, September 4, 2009

An increasing number of teachers and students in Chilton County are experiencing education in the virtual classroom.

With the advent of distance learning in the county’s six high schools — as well as new graduation requirements — students are able to learn from instructors in other areas of the state, thus expanding their course options.

But students aren’t the only ones benefiting. More than 10 teachers countywide are trained to teach online courses.

“We’re beginning to have more and more teachers trained,” said Mary Clyde Huff, technology coordinator for Chilton County Schools. “We are very fortunate in this county to have the facilities we have available to all our high schools.”

Not only are online courses an option to students these days; they are the law.

Beginning with the ninth grade class of the 2009-2010 school year, all students under the Advanced Academic Endorsement to the Alabama High School Diploma must have an “online experience” in order to graduate.

An online experience is defined as a structured learning environment that utilizes technology with Intranet/Internet-based tools and resources as the delivery method for instruction, research, assessment and communication.

As of 2009, all Chilton County students in grades 9-12 have access to a distance learning lab.

This allows for interactive videoconferencing (IVC) courses, in which students can see and hear their teacher via a large monitor, as well as online courses.

Examples of online course subjects include Spanish, German, French, Latin, U.S. government, economics, geometry, marine science, U.S. history, creative writing and pre-calculus.

“It lets you learn things at your own pace, and you get to just take your time and soak it up,” said Thorsby junior Perry Hilyer, who is taking Spanish I online this semester.

About 20 students at Thorsby are taking online courses this year.

Students wear headphones while online. These serve a dual purpose by both blocking out external noise and allowing students to hear either their teacher talking or audio recordings for assignments.

Each lab is manned by a facilitator who helps keep order, sees that equipment is properly maintained, and contacts teachers about problems.

“There’s equitable access for all students,” Huff said. “The [students at] smaller schools can have unlimited possibilities in the courses that they take from highly qualified teachers.”