One of the blessings of teaching at North Florida Community College is the opportunity to teach dual-enrollment students. By definition some of the best and brightest area high schools have to offer, they also must possess considerable drive and ambition to desire to dual-enroll. It is easy, of course, for students at MCHS, James Madison or New Testament to come to NFCC campus to attend classes, given their location. Other area schools, however, are 30, 40 or even 60 minute drives away from NFCC, connected by largely rural roads with poor cell reception, making commuting to NFCC campus less appealing for them. Neither is it particularly exciting for NFCC faculty to drive to area campuses and back.
Fortunately, modern technology has brought a solution to this difficulty, and allowed myself, and other NFCC faculty, to enjoy teaching dual-enrollment students from farther area high schools. Poly-Com, a technology that is best described as Skype or FaceTime on a classroom level, enables students at other school sites to be virtually in an NFCC classroom. Using this video-conferencing tool, participants can see and hear the professor and students physically in the classroom, and the professor and students can see and hear them, in real time. The board, actually a giant computer monitor located in the NFCC classroom, also transmits to the classroom in the high school. Thus students are taking the class, and are in the class, without ever leaving their high school campus.
There are many benefits to this program. For college faculty, they have the opportunity to teach some great students, utilize cutting edge technology, and literally be an ambassador for NFCC to the area schools. Students can ease into college while staying in the familiar, supportive environment of their high school. Parents watch their children getting a jump on college at reduced cost, while not worrying about their whereabouts and time on the road. Administrators and schools can be proud and justly crow about the unique and advanced program they are offering to their students on their campus. NFCC fulfills some of the “Community” in its name through this outreach and partnership.
So it is not your grandma’s schoolroom, and has not been for a long time. But I am glad we are putting technology to good use in this area, and that it is benefitting the participants, particularly young people who are eager to apply themselves and get ahead. This is my 29th year teaching in higher education, (how can that be when I am only 25 in my mind?) and at the beginning I used a chalkboard and chalk, then a whiteboard and markers, and now I write and present on a giant TV with a stick. So I am counting my blessings, happy for these chances to use technology to better serve our region, and remembering Grandma didn’t have air conditioning when she went to school.