N.C. students use online classes to save money

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CONCORD ó If you want to see bright futures in the making, visit the Y.E.S. Center at Concord High School.
There you will find aspiring broadcast journalists Dustin Johnson and John D’Amato learning about film genre and the impact of camera movement.
Mary Lewallen, an avid runner and dancer, is busy researching the physiological side of exercise and learning to separate “fads from facts” when it comes to nutrition.
As students in online classes, these three seniors are exploring future professions, building study skills and earning free college credit at the same time. And they do it all from their high school’s computer lab through a state program called Learn and Earn Online.
“Concord High School is such a small school that we could never get enough students together to offer the types of specialized courses that really broaden their high school experience,” said Janie Dickson, Youth Experiencing Success (YES) Center coordinator and UNC-Greensboro school course facilitator Janie Dickson.
“The flexibility and freedom students have to take these courses online and the free college credit they earn at the same time create an unbelievable opportunity for our students.”
Developed by former Gov. Mike Easley in 2007 and funded by the General Assembly, Learn and Earn Online enables high school students across the state to register for online college courses through the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the North Carolina Community College System.
More than 300 courses in language, music, politics, sociology and other subjects are available.
In most cases, students earn high school and free college credit by taking one online course. Classes are offered during school and after-school hours and students do not need a computer to enroll in a course.
Some courses have prerequisites, so students should register for the program with their school counselors.
Dustin Johnson, a senior, is enrolled in a “Masterpieces of Cinema” course.
“I took the online course to get out of a regular classroom setting,” Dustin said, “but because we do not have that much time to complete each assignment, I have developed time management skills, study skills and self-discipline that will help me in college.”
About 20 Concord High juniors and seniors spend a 1.5-hour time block in the Y.E.S. Center every day reading lectures, working on assignments and taking tests for courses such as “Cultural Anthropology,” “Contemporary Moral Problems” and “Physical Fitness for Life.”
But many students ó including Johnson ó are so engaged in online class topics, their learning does not stop at the doors of the computer lab.
“This film class really sparked my interest so I am always thinking about what I am going to write about in my next weekly assignment,” said Johnson. “In a regular class, I do not want to think about that class until I have to go again the next day.”
Parents and educators see value in Learn and Earn Online program as well.
Bill Harrison, State Board of Education chairman and chief executive officer, wants more people to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Students planning schedules next fall are doing themselves a disservice if they do not explore the hundreds of different college-level courses available to them at no cost through Learn and Earn Online,” said Harrison. “These courses save families money and help students jumpstart their college education and future careers.”
To find out more about Learn and Earn Online, visit www.nclearnandearn.org or contact the NCDPI’s Communications division at 919.807.3450.