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Monday, May 30, 2016

Distance learning closes distances

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Learning from a far: Lynn Worsham (left) and Nick Bartz listen as Ozarka College history teacher Wally Pitman lectures about world civilizations from the Ozarka campus Aug. 26. Worsham and Bartz received the lecture inside Salem High School's Distance Learning Lab. Photo/Jared

High school students have traditionally tried to gain favor with their teachers by placing an apple on their instructors' desks.

Students in at least one Salem High School classroom will have to send their fruit overtures through the mail.

The Distance Learning Lab, a Salem High School classroom that is instructed by a teacher who is teaching a concurrent college course from the Ozarka College campus in Melbourne, opened Aug. 22.

"The purpose of the lab is to offer college classes to our students that we can't offer," said Salem High School Principal Wayne Guiltner. "I'm really excited about the opportunities we will be able to give our students."

The two classrooms are outfitted with an array of cameras, a projector, computer, sensitive audio devices and other equipment. The setup allows students at the Salem campus to interact with the teacher and college students at the Ozarka campus.

Guiltner said students on the Salem campus can move cameras inside the Ozarka classroom so they can follow the instructor as he walks across the room.

He said the audio equipment is sensitive enough to hear students whispering.

"The students in our classroom can talk with the teacher at Ozarka and vice-versa," Guiltner said. "It's a great learning atmosphere. It feels just like a college classroom."

Students at the Salem campus are supervised by Gary Hoover.

Guiltner said Hoover, who also serves as a substitute bus driver and teacher, had to take a class to learn how to operate the equipment.

Hoover said he served on the Putnam County, Mo., School Board in the late 1980s when the concept of the distance learning lab was being developed.

"We were one of the first school districts in the country to develop a distance learning lab," Hoover said. "I think it's great to give kids access to these other classes."

Salem Superintendent Ken Rich said it took approximately two years to get the Distance Learning Lab in operation.

The Salem School District received a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education to fund the project, Rich said.

"Every school in the state who applied for a Distance Learning Lab grant got one," said Guiltner.

Rich said the lab cost approximately $30,000 to complete.

During the fall semester only a history class, world civilizations I, is being offered to Salem students.

The class taught by Ozarka history instructor Wally Pittman is offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8-8:50 a.m.

Only two Salem students are taking the course this semester.

"It's like we are in class with them," said Salem senior Lynn Worsham. "The style of teaching is so different."

The other student who is taking the course, senior Nick Bartz, said he is trying to get a head start on his college course work.

"Hopefully by the time I graduate from high school I will already have a semester of college classes completed," Bartz said.

With the addition of the Distance Learning Lab class, students can earn up to 18 college credit hours on the Salem campus, Guiltner said.

The school already offered multiple college classes taught on the Salem campus, he said.

Guiltner said the school hopes to increase the number of college courses offered in the lab during the spring semester.

Rich said Salem's lab is a far cry from the first distance learning labs that were constructed.

"In the past we had to pass a microphone to one another if we wanted to talk to the instructor," Rich said. "And there was a delay between when the instructor spoke and when we heard what he said."

The Distance Learning Lab can accommodate up to 30 students, Guiltner said.

The room has no windows and the walls are carpeted to cut down on external noise and light glare, Rich said.

The only drawback for students is they have to pay for the course, Hoover said.

"But it's worth it," he said. "The further ahead you can get, the better off you'll be.

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