Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dual credit students exhibit motivation and sense of responsibility by Ruth Raveling

Faulkton dual credit students with teacher Nikki Melius

This month, high school juniors and seniors across South Dakota begin another round of reduced-cost dual credit courses at our state’s technical institutes and public universities. These courses are available at the cost of $40/credit hour. That represents a tremendous cost savings, and the opportunity wasn’t lost on the more than 1,000 students who took such courses during the fall semester. I applaud these ambitious young men and women.

I got to meet several Faulkton students enrolled in dual credit courses last fall and was immediately impressed by their motivation and sense of responsibility.

Dual credit courses are college-level; not college-level adapted for high school. For instance, if a Faulkton student signs up for a dual credit college algebra course at South Dakota State University, her classmates are SDSU students. These classes are rigorous.

The distance from Faulkton to SDSU? About 160 miles. Which means that student isn’t driving to her class three days a week, where she could talk with classmates and simply raise her hand if she has a question. Like the Faulkton students I met, many students take the $40/credit dual credit courses online. They don’t meet their instructors or classmates in person. Students must email, text or telephone their instructors if they have questions. These classes require initiative.

Technical institute and university calendars and schedules don’t completely match those of the K-12 system either. One student I met explained that while Faulkton had a day off, he had a test to take in his dual credit course. Professors don’t check in with their students daily to ensure they’re making progress on assignments and projects either. As one student told me, “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.’” These classes require strong time management skills.

All of this might sound like a heavy weight for high school shoulders. So I asked, would they do it again? Yes was the nearly unanimous response. Why?

One student points out the cost savings: “You don’t have to take it in college and pay twice as much.”

Another likes that his dual credit course (Introduction to Theater) is getting him ahead: “With my major, I’d be able to go straight to the acting classes instead of having to take that theater class that first semester.”

“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 Nikki Melius, the teacher who administers Faulkton’s dual credit program.

The future is bright for these motivated young people, and because of them, so is the future of South Dakota. 

Ruth Raveling is the South Dakota Department of Education's information specialist.