CORVALLIS - A new program at Oregon State University called OSU K-12 Online will begin operation this fall, offering high school students across Oregon and the nation a broad cross-section of courses in the language arts, math and sciences they can take for high school credit.
This is the most ambitious outreach effort to K-12 students in the university's history and one of the most comprehensive of its type in the state. Officials hope it will help fill in the gaps caused by public school cutbacks, budget crunches, crowded schedules, remote locations, and other needs around Oregon.
Within a few years, it will be possible to obtain a complete, accredited high school diploma from OSU K-12 Online, taking courses from some of the state's finest and most experienced teachers.
"OSU has always thought of the state of Oregon as its campus, and this program is a way to broaden our statewide service during a time of severe pressures on our public schools," said Paula Minear, director of enrollment and student services for OSU Extended Campus, the university's distance education program. "We have a long history of outreach to the K-12 level and this is the next step."
The new initiative is a way to help high schools around the state meet stringent state and federal guidelines and provide courses that are increasingly difficult during a time of severe budget constraints, Minear said. The university has already developed 23 courses for fall 2003, and will have 10 more by January 2004. All the courses have been developed in cooperation with, and approved by, public school District 509J in Corvallis, Ore. Tuition for each course will be $300.
Educators see a diverse group of students and school systems that may find such courses useful:
- Students and parents working with a "home schooling" program will have easy access to courses in complex topics such as algebra, biology, history or foreign languages;
- School districts facing budget issues may tap into this program to offer necessary courses to a small number of students at lower cost than providing the same teachers and courses themselves;
- Students with jobs or other commitments have new flexibility in arranging their schedules;
- Students who have failed or done poorly in a course may take it again without interrupting their other high school coursework;
- A wide range of advanced placement courses or options for talented and gifted students will now be available.
According to Tryna Luton, K-12 outreach coordinator with OSU Extended Campus, the trend of colleges and other agencies assisting with high school and other K-12 education is gaining momentum across the nation.
"A lot of other states and universities are already doing much more in this area than Oregon," Luton said. "State universities in Indiana, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Utah already have large outreach programs such as this, and Texas has a major program. Florida has a large 'virtual' school that's not associated with a public university. This is one of the new growth areas in distance education."
OSU's extended education programs have already served students from across Oregon and every state in the nation, officials say, and the university's online education technology is among the most advanced in the world. It's anticipated the new OSU K-12 Online program will be used by students not only from Oregon but across the country.
"The important thing here is to serve students," Luton said. "I taught 10 years in Oregon's public schools, I saw the class sizes going up, the difficulty in finding teachers with the proper certification, and the tremendous budget pressures the schools are facing. Anything we can do to give our K-12 system more support, to get students the education they deserve is worth the effort. Obviously for most students we're not going to replace their high school experience, just enhance it."
The Corvallis public school district has been an integral partner in the development of the new program and all of the courses meet its standards, as well as national standards. All teachers will be fully certified, and in most cases have decades of experience.
Among the courses to be offered in the first semester are algebra, creative writing, journalism, marine science, American history, psychology, international studies, consumer economics, political science, graphic arts, Spanish, family living, digital imaging, web design, and many others.
More detail about the courses, schedule, registration and other information can be found on the web at ecampus.oregonstate.edu, or by calling 1-800-667-1465. Courses are being offered in both an 18-week and "fast track" 9-week format.
OSU officials said they hope to develop partnerships with many Oregon school districts as the program evolves, creating mechanisms to more readily bring these courses to Oregon students.
At first, the program is focusing on high school courses. But the first middle school courses should be added by January 2004 and, in future years, elementary courses will be included - mostly of an enrichment nature in such areas as reading, writing, math or science.
Associations in Oregon composed of parents who are home-schooling their children have already expressed considerable interest in the program, OSU officials say. The concept provides a convenient way to provide professional instruction in advanced courses in math, science or foreign languages, or specialized topics such as web design or marine science. Private schools may also use the new program to enhance their course offerings without a costly expansion of their own instructional staff. The new program begins Sept. 8.