A Head Start on College

Online Learning keyboardMost visitors to Yellowstone National Park expect to find bears, geysers, and hiking trails. Alysha Morris found a college classroom.

“I was really surprised to get a Wi-Fi connection there, of all places,” said Morris, who completed two Maranatha Online courses following her high school graduation in May of 2009.  “I would say flexibility is the best thing about online classes. I did my classes at midnight. I did them early in the morning. And, I did them at Yellowstone Park.”

Not everyone will want to tackle college during their family vacations. Still, Maranatha Online is a particularly attractive learning option for high school students who wish to get a (more affordable) head start on their college education.

“I just wanted to get a taste of what college courses were going to be like,” said Andrea Ly, who enrolled in Old Testament Survey and Basic Music Literature as a high school senior. “I was also able to get a couple college credits behind me at about half the price.”

A Less Expensive Alternative

Learning became even more cost-effective when Maranatha Online began offering a 50-percent scholarship to high school juniors and seniors who qualify. Online Learning Chair Naomi Ledgerwood said more than one-third of Maranatha Online enrollees in the summer of 2009 were high school students who had been awarded scholarships.

“What we found is that they are pretty aggressive learners,” Ledgerwood said. “They are disciplined, motivated people who understand the value of earning college credit while still in high school.”

There are educational benefits as well as economic benefits. Many of the courses offered by Maranatha Online are general classes required for graduation. The student eliminates those requirements before stepping foot on campus, allowing for flexibility in scheduling and for the student to take more specialized (and often more enjoyable) elective courses.

Morris plans to major in nursing, a program with a particularly heavy courseload. She enrolled in Old Testament Survey and English Composition I, both required courses, to help lessen the academic stress that may await her down the road.

“I wanted to do this so my schedule wouldn’t be so hard later,” Morris said. “I wanted to get ahead. I didn’t want to get to college and have to just cram all those classes into my schedule.”

Go Without Really Going

Perhaps a student isn’t sure that the Lord is leading them to Watertown. Maranatha’s regional accreditation allows its credits to transfer to nearly every college in the country. So, even students who don’t plan to attend Maranatha can pick up credits that will put them ahead at the college of their choice.

Dual credit options have become attractive to high school students considering an online course.
Many public schools allow students to earn both high school and college credit for the same course. Some states will even help the student pay for the class. Homeschooled students, including those under the supervision of a public or Christian school, may also find earning dual credits to be an option.

A Little History Lesson

Maranatha Online was launched in January of 2009 and enrolled its first students in May. Courses are completed during eight-week cycles.

“It’s not like a correspondence course when you complete your work whenever you want,” Ledgerwood said, “but you don’t have to be online every night at 8 either. That is the question I get asked most often, is whether a student has to be online all the time. They don’t. They may have to complete a quiz by midnight on Friday, so there is structure, but there is also flexibility.”

That flexibility is promoted through synchronous learning sessions, an experience similar to conversing on Skype. Teachers and students with webcams and microphones exchange ideas and questions. Those sessions are recorded for access by those who can’t participate live.

“I had to miss a couple sessions, and it was nice to be able to still see what I had missed,” Morris said. “My English Comp professor (Lisa Walker England) set it up so that you could see her as well as the PowerPoint slides. It was fun to see her facial expressions when someone in the class said something she thought was funny.”

Another key component of online learning is discussion forums. Students create posts that are evaluated by professors and fellow students. This exchange promotes learning by reading, writing, and debate.
“You learned a lot from what other people wrote,” Ly said. “It was interesting to see their thought processes, and it really made you look at your own viewpoint.”

The Future of Education

The economic and education benefits of online learning for high school students will continue to become more compelling, and Ledgerwood said Maranatha Online intends to keep pace.

“Whether you are talking about classes, billing, admissions, or any other part of the process, we’re working to make it as streamlined and efficient as possible,” Ledgerwood said.

Ly said she recommended Maranatha Online to her sister and best friend, and both enrolled.

“I was the guinea pig,” Ly said with a smile. “For me, it was a really good taste of what to expect in college.”

To enroll in an online class, or for more information, go to: www.mbbc.edu/online