For scores of Alabama high school students, Troy University unlocks the door to broader horizons through distance learning.
Through the Governor’s Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide, or ACCESS, Program, some 5,000 students in south Alabama have the opportunity to study high school subjects they can’t get in their own classrooms. Long a leader in higher education distance learning, TROY now leads the way in the field for high schools.
By far the largest of the state’s three ACCESS service centers, TROY serves more than 90,000 high school students in 45 school systems in its 27-county service area and currently has 5,000 of the 8,300 half-credit ACCESS enrollments statewide. A half-credit enrollment is the way the State Department of Education accounts for students in the program.
More than 2,000 of the state’s 3,300 summer school ACCESS students are served by the TROY support center.
“This program has absolutely exploded in terms of what our students want and need,” said Reba Davis, who directs ACCESS for the University.
According to Davis, State Department of Education officials forecast some 10,000 students will take one of 58 classes to be offered in the next year.
Those predictions, edged upward by recent State Board of Education revisions requiring all Alabama students to take at least one distance-learning course during their high school careers, are well on target, according to Davis.
“While not all of those students will take that class in the Fall ’09 semester, we are gearing up to handle a much heavier volume of students,” she said. “However, we’re growing ACCESS because teachers enjoy teaching the courses and the kids who have taken an ACCESS class are saying ‘it’s a blast’.”
Davis has even identified a number of trends building as a result of TROY’s implementation of ACCESS.
“In interviewing ACCESS teachers, we’re finding that they are integrating ACCESS methods into the traditional classroom,” she said. Some school systems are beginning to schedule an “ACCESS period” that’s in addition to the regular school day. Even students who have been discipline problems for local administrators are excelling in ACCESS classes, where they are freer from distractions usually found in traditional classroom settings.
Adding to the success of ACCESS is the fact that these online classes are delivered at no cost to the students. “It’s public education,” Davis said. “TROY ACCESS is almost a year-round high school and the courses don’t cost students a dime.”