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WVU brings distance learning to Martinsburg High School

October 06, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It may not exactly be the technology envisioned on "The Jetsons" or "Star Trek" - sorry, no teleporters - but with the touch of a button a student in Martinsburg can instantaneously be connected with a teacher in Morgantown, W.Va.

As part of West Virginia University's distance learning program, a classroom opened a few weeks ago in Martinsburg High School connects graduate students here with professors in Morgantown or other parts of the state, WVU officials said.

Classes have been held in the room for around three weeks, but an official grand opening took place Tuesday.

Laboratories might be set up in the county's two other high schools - Musselman and Hedgesville - to allow students at all three schools to simultaneously participate in certain courses that are taught by only one teacher, said Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon.

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Rather than being a satellite classroom, the room is instead connected over a network. Having signals transmitted through wires allows for a better, faster connection, officials said.

The classroom includes 24 work stations, each with laptop connections and a microphone button. When a student pushes the button, a camera zooms in on him or her, allowing the teacher to see the student up close, officials said.

At the instructor's console in the front of the room, an instructor can turn on a DVD player, display the Internet, television, a VCR or display a document with the touch of a button.

The display is shown on a large screen and three smaller flat-screen televisions around the room.

Current offerings include classes for an executive MBA, a master's degree in special education and a master's in educational leadership.

Previously, WVU operated from a classroom at Shepherd University.

David Finney, who finished his master's in business administration in May, said the classroom at Shepherd doubled as a science laboratory.

He said it was dark, sometimes hot, sometimes cold and that occasionally skeletons had to be pushed out of the way.

Finney, of Charles Town, W.Va., stopped by to check out the new classroom. "I just walked in. It looks great," he said.

Sue Day-Perroots, dean of WVU's extended learning program, said WVU has had a presence in the Eastern Panhandle for more than 30 years.

The partnership with Berkeley County Schools allows the university to deliver more programs more effectively, she said.

WVU spent around $120,000 on the technology, Day-Perroots said.

Martinsburg High School students could use the technology in the room to have live news broadcasts. High school students could also use the room to take college-level courses, Arvon said.

"I just think it's a great opportunity for expanding our curriculum," he said, adding the relationship with WVU is a "win-win" situation.

"We are just very pleased to house this program because it is the future," Arvon said.

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