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‘Distance Learning’ week kicks off

Alabama’s 21st Century Classroom was showcased as the Troy University Extended Learning Center open house Monday afternoon in celebration of Distance Learning Week, Feb. 1-5.

Representatives from the Alabama State Department of Education attended the event along with members of the Troy University faculty and staff, Troy and Pike County elected officials and members of the community. All learned more about the ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide) program through demonstrations of the equipment used to facilitate the program.

The ACCESS program was implemented in 2005 for the purpose of making sure that all students statewide have an equal opportunity to enroll in foreign language and advanced placement classes.

“ACCESS, Alabama’s 21st Century Classroom, levels the playing field for all students,” said Reba Davis, ACCESS director. “Troy University is one of three ACCESS support centers. The other support centers are the University of Alabama and the Madison City School System.

“The Troy University Support Center includes 27 counties and 143 schools in the southern area of the state with an enrollment of 10,000 this past year.”

In its first year, the Troy University Support Center had an enrollment of 250.

“We have grown tremendously and continue to grow as more students are becoming aware of the opportunities the ACCESS program offers,” Davis said. “Presently, we are offering about 80 courses, including five languages – Spanish, French, German, Latin and Mandarin Chinese.

“We offer all levels of math, English, plus two advanced placement classes and science. The ACCESS program also offers history, economics and world history.”

In addition to videoconferencing classes, the ACCESS program offers online classes, which are extremely popular with the students.“Our students love the online classes,” Davis said. “Today’s students are so in tune with technology, and they like working online because they are in control. They can work at their own pace. They can move ahead quickly, or they can go back and re-read material. They work at a pace that suits them best.”

Students don’t see the teacher “online” but they are in contact with the teacher via e-mail and can pose questions and receive feedback. A teacher must respond to a student’s questions within a 24-hour period. The online studies are built into the Alabama Course of Study and are not intended to displace the classroom teacher.

“The online classes also benefit the students by making it possible for them to take classes that aren’t offered at their school,” Davis said. “The online classes are beneficial to students who move from a school system that doesn’t offer a class or classes they want to transfer.”

Ten thousand students are currently benefiting from videoconferencing and online classes offered through the ACCESS program with the Troy University Support Center.