Classes offer opportunity to interact with local high schools through ITV

Who says you have to be in college for a college experience?

Missouri Southern is offering students the opportunity to interact with local high school students in three classes this semester with Interactive Television (ITV) technology. The high school students not only get a glimpse of college life, but also dual credit. Dr. Jerry Williams, director of distance learning, is one of three professors working in this field of learning.

“The students can come in and start their college career with almost 21 credit hours already under their belt,” said Williams. “They can have essentially their first semester already done before they come.”

The program involves high schools in the local area; including Monett, Lamar, Golden City, Jasper and Webb City. Depending on the demand for students, Southern has touched base with each one, sending teachers out to conduct class off campus.

“Monett and Lamar have been exceptionally close to us in terms of how we’ve interacted with technology,” said Williams. “When I go down there, we seem to have a good time. I enjoy the students at Monett quite a bit.”

Taking college-level courses in high school is not all fun and games, however. The seniors and juniors must meet a 3.0 grade-point average and have proficient scores on state tests. Additionally, they must be recommended by their principal or their high school counselor.

“I think that it’s a good program,” said Dr. Betsy Griffin, assistant vice president for academic affairs. “For [the high school students] it’s a really big deal, and it’s a great experience. They generally do pretty well in the class.”

Working out of Room 111 in Webster Hall, Williams teaches a speech class which he finds unique among other speech classes.

“One thing in my speech class that you wouldn’t get in a normal classroom is once the student has given their speech, it is recorded and put up on the screen so the student can view how they did,” Williams said.

Amanda Curtis, junior speech communication major, said she has two friends who enjoy the interactive class. She said it was only a matter of time before technology would emerge.

“The way technology is advancing, it might as well happen,” she said.

Another Southern student, Mitch Mason, junior mass communication major, said he didn’t even know such progress has been made for the department, but he likes the idea.

“It’s cool to see we all learn differently,” he said.

Williams travels back and forth between Monett and Southern to make sure all of his students feel a part of the class. He said he was anticipating some changes with a new vocational facility as well as some repositioning of camera angles. However, he said this is what he likes.

“I’ve enjoyed it enough that I’m using some of my vacation time to teach it,” he said.

A couple of years ago when ITV was in its first stage, Griffin was delivering textbooks to Crane High School, the vocational school in Monett, and she saw firsthand the students’ reaction.

“The students were thrilled,” she said. “When the camera first panned around and they saw there were other college students on campus taking the class, they were so excited.”

This particular school stood out in Griffin’s mind as an “interesting thing.”

“The Crane High School principal is extraordinarily interested in giving his students a real college-type experience because that’s an area in the school district where historically there have been a low percentage of students who go to college,” Griffin said.