The distance learning lab at Ragland provides a blended learning environment, which means students receive direct instruction from a teacher, and have content delivered via content modules online. Their teacher is not at Ragland — she is 162 miles away at Sheffield High School.
All Ragland High School students who want to get an advanced academic diploma must take a foreign language. Because Ragland does not have a foreign language teacher, those students take advantage of the state program called ACCESS distance learning.
ACCESS stands for Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide. It is a web-based program that allows students in grades 9-12 (and some eighth-graders) to take courses, such as foreign languages, their own school may not offer.
“The biggest advantage to using this lab is that students are able to take courses they normally would not have the opportunity to take in our school. Ragland Principal Roger Wilkinson said. ”Students are in a lab where the teacher and her class come to them via video-conference daily.”
This relationship between Ragland and distance learning opportunities is 10 years old. They were one of the first schools to utilize a form of distance learning even before the ACCESS program got its start.
They have had the same teacher most of that time and many efforts are made each year to get a face-to-face meeting with these digitally connected classes.
“I feel like we are one school in so many ways,” teacher Lisa Myrick said.
Myrick even takes time during her spring break, which is different than Ragland, to come and visit with the students. Students at Ragland interact with the teacher and other students using Polycom equipment that projects video both ways and is maintained at the Ragland lab by a facilitator, Kay Means.
“In those 10 years, I have seen students and courses come and go, but I continue to stay excited and stay very engaged at the level of involvement with Mrs. Lisa Myrick’s Spanish class,” Means said.
Recently Polycom and Cisco executives sat in on a class to observe this interactive relationship and they commented on how seamless it was. Students from both schools seem genuinely excited about the class and are not afraid to ask questions.
Jacob Bagwell (Spanish name Luis) said, “This is the tech generation, so to offer a class online so you can use all these tools and be able to talk with Mrs. Myrick is epic.”