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SD Department of Education November 2014  

Faulkton dual credit students
Students navigate frontier between high school and postsecondary with dual credit

This fall, students and educators are navigating an exciting frontier between high school and postsecondary with reduced cost dual credit courses. Across the state, approximately 1,100 high school juniors and seniors are taking college-level courses at the rate of $40/credit hour.

Hands-off instruction
While students can attend courses on university or technical institute campuses, distance and scheduling needs prompt many to take the courses online. That’s the case in Faulkton and Jones County, where teachers Nikki Melius and Carmen Miller praise their students’ independence and initiative. As their schools’ dual credit facilitators, the two see themselves primarily as sounding boards.

In Faulkton, Melius says, “After they get enrolled in their course, I am the one that occasionally will release a test or give information from their professors, but besides that, it’s just a lot of conversation with my students. They’re not even really ‘mine,’ I guess.”

Melius explains that while school districts coordinate enrollment, once courses begin, students have campus advisors and work directly with their instructors. This requires an adjustment to the more hands-off nature of online college-level instruction. Students primarily ask questions of instructors via email or text.

Faulkton student Cole Baloun says, “It’s different learning. Like, math, it’s coming from a classroom where your teacher’s standing up there and writing on the white board and if you don’t understand, you can say, ‘Hey, can you go through this with me?’ And now you’re kind of on your own, but you get used to it.”

Balancing high school and postsecondary
Students must also juggle schedules. For instance, Baloun recently found himself taking a test in his dual credit course on a day when his high school wasn’t in session.

In Jones County, Miller requires students to maintain a weekly log that helps them track their high school schedule alongside their dual credit schedule. She says students have appreciated the tool. Both districts want to ensure dual credit students successfully mesh the two schedules and don’t feel separated from the traditional high school experiences of their peers.

Time management
College-level work also demands students effectively manage their time. “It’s kind of a learning curve to change, because you go from having daily assignments to, ‘Okay, this is what you have for these next two weeks. Get them done,’” says Kaci Clement, a junior in Faulkton.

Faulkton senior Maddy Aesoph agrees: “You have to manage your time a lot better.” She acknowledges it can be tempting to procrastinate.

“They really feel like they have autonomy, like they’re in control of their own coursework,” Miller says. “Because we’re a small school, this program is allowing us to challenge our students in ways we couldn’t before.”

Both districts have been working to communicate with students and parents about what it takes to succeed in a dual credit course. As Melius notes, the prospect of avoiding a high school course can be intriguing to students and the significant cost savings appeal to students and parents alike. But it’s important that both parties understand the level of rigor involved.

“These students are now our best advocates for the program because they’re very honest and they’ll tell fellow students that there are a lot of benefits, but it does change your learning,” says Melius.

Before a student enrolls in a dual credit course in Jones County, his or her parents must meet with appropriate staff members and sign forms outlining distance learning methodology and behavior expectations. Students sign the forms as well.

Policy decisions
As the name implies, dual credit means that students earn both high school and postsecondary credit. It is up to local districts, though, how much credit students earn at the high school level. For instance, in Faulkton, administrators have consulted the South Dakota Board of Regents and gotten local school board approval, to have a semester-long dual credit composition course count as one credit of senior English at the high school level.

Future implications
Because ACT scores are one way in which students can qualify to enroll in dual credit courses, staff at Faulkton and Jones County anticipate students will start taking the ACT earlier in their junior year.

And as more students continue to take more dual credit courses, some college freshmen will begin entering postsecondary institutions with a different perspective from their predecessors.

“Something we’ll learn more as a district, is counseling students what to take,” says Melius. “We want the process to be seamless for them, interesting and beneficial for them academically. And we want them to be with their peers once they get on campus.”

Click here to learn more about dual credit. Registration for spring 2015 technical institute courses is open now. Registration for spring courses at Board of Regents schools begins Nov. 17.

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