Accessing College Courses from High School Classrooms

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Pilot Program between CSM, La Plata High School Hopes to Gain Traction

            Associate Professor of Language and Literature Dave Robinson stood at the front of a classroom at the College of Southern Maryland La Plata Campus, lecturing to a handful of students who were in the room with him. But on large screens in front of him were another 17 students, taking notes on the lecture from a classroom at La Plata High School, about five miles away.

As CSM seeks innovative ways for college courses to be more accessible for more students and dually enrolled high school students in this instance, technology makes that mission a little easier – as well as more complex – every day.

Robinson’s lecture is a pilot program between CSM and La Plata High School, which enables LPHS students to take a college-level course without leaving their high school. Subsequently, they are able to get an edge on earning college credit even before they graduate high school, bringing them one step closer to a college degree.

The college already offers dual enrollment to high school students, but Access CSM is different. First, the class is for CSM credit only and not high school credit. Second, students can take the class at the high school campus, eliminating the need for transportation.

CSM Admissions Director Brian Hammond said the program took about a year to set up and was prompted by the request of LPHS Principal Evelyn Arnold. The primary need for the class – other than student interest – was ensuring that both schools had the technology to execute it.

This first fall class, LAN 1080 Popular Culture, followed by SOC 2010 Technology and Society to be offered in the spring, make up the pilot program for CSM; Hammond hopes the interest spreads to other schools.

“My goal is to have Access CSM at all seven Charles County high schools,” Hammond said.

Both sites need computer equipment, cameras and speakers to allow the professor to communicate with each student. Each student at both locations has a small screen at a work station that allows him or her to see the other site, as well. On the first official day of CSM classes, Sept. 2, Robinson began his lecture by making sure everyone at the remote site could hear him and that he could hear them. With that quickly out of the way, he began his normal first-day lecture on the purpose of the class and what students could expect to learn.

Each Charles County high school has a telepresence lab, which could make the program somewhat easy to implement at other schools if it is found to be successful this year, according to Arnold.

Arnold said the idea came during a conversation she was having with Hammond about how the college and high school could continue an already positive relationship. Once they thought of the class concept, they began to work out the details: high school and college calendars do not match, and with the class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that could be an issue for early dismissal days, which are held on Thursdays this year in Charles County Public Schools.

“We were able to work through all of those issues,” Arnold said. Another benefit to the LPHS students is that even on the days there are no lectures, the students are able to use that class time to study. She said the staff member assigned to the classroom is able to help them with any homework or studies and in their free time she can work with them to apply for scholarships and generally prepare for college. “These are college-bound students, so they can walk out of high school with scholarships already in place,” Arnold said.

In general, the Dual Enrollment Program at CSM gives high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to simultaneously earn college credit—with up to a 50 percent reduction—that may also count as credit toward a high school diploma. Public, private and homeschooled high school students are eligible to participate. “High school students will have the opportunity to earn transferrable credit and be that much closer to a college degree. Students aren’t limited to the Access CSM courses. There are many opportunities to get a head start,” said Hammond.

“So if [students] take two classes their junior year and two classes their senior year, they can graduate high school with a full semester of college already finished at half the cost,” Arnold said.

Both Arnold and Hammond said they look forward to seeing the program grow into other Charles County schools and then the rest of Southern Maryland.

“If it’s good enough for Charles County, then it’s certainly good enough for Calvert County and St. Mary’s County,” Arnold said. “And these kids are going to be ready for college. They will already have a high confidence in their own success and a high comfort level with college courses.”

For more information about Access CSM, visit or contact the CSM Admissions Department at or 301-934-2251. For information on requirements and deadline to enroll, visit or contact a CSM enrollment advisor at 301-934-7765 or 301-934-2251.

            For information on admission options for high school students, visit