Ellen Parker takes classes twice a week in room 103 of Mawhinney Hall without setting foot on campus. Room 103 is the specially equipped home of Onondaga Community College’s Distance Learning courses. Parker is a senior at Altmar-Parish-Williamstown (APW) high school which is located about 40 miles north of OCC in Oswego County. “This is a great way to learn,” said Parker. “As high school students we work with professors and they have high expectations.”
Parker is one of more than 60 students in the Distance Learning program which includes the APW, Central Square and Phoenix high schools. The Hannibal and Sandy Creek school districts are also planning to participate in future years. Thanks to technology, students earn college credits while working with college professors in their high school buildings.
The entire system is coordinated by three people: Kelly Larrivey of OCC who provides technical support on campus, Shannon Patrie of OCC who oversees the courses which are offered and Melissa Daniels who is the Distance Learning Coordinator at the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation (CiTi BOCES) in Mexico. CiTi BOCES is the technical nerve-center for the entire operation. All of the camera systems run through CiTi Boces allowing a professor at OCC to see and hear students at any of the high schools and vice versa.
When class is over students rely heavily on technology to communicate with their professor. “Through email or phone conversations or Blackboard online we can get in touch quickly,” said Parker. “Professors are very good about getting back to us with answers to our questions.”
The Distance Learning program has helped Parker complete a semester worth of college work at APW. By the time she graduates in June she will have earned 12 credits through Distance Learning and another four credits through a Statistics class taught at the high school as part of OCC’s College Credit Now program.
In the fall Parker will come to the OCC campus and major in Mathematics and Science. She plans to earn a degree here and transfer to SUNY Upstate where she will focus on a career in medical imaging. She says she’s ready for what lies ahead thanks to the Distance Learning program. “It taught me to have higher standards before getting to college. It’s prepared me for college work.”