On February 9, 2015, Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) launched its second digital classroom, a partnership with Locust Fork High School. BSC received a $120,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to design and build two blended learning classrooms, one on campus and one at the high school in Blount County.
The classrooms—which are modeled after a high-tech digital classroom on the BSC campus—link the college and high school students in an effort to boost graduation rates in rural Alabama. High school juniors at Locust Fork get to participate in six different sessions that will hopefully prepare them for their career after graduation: College Costs, Career Options and Exploration, College Options, ACT Study Strategies, Success Skills, and Academic Skills & Planning.
The classroom is outfitted with television monitors, Mondo Pads, and two-way video capability. Through a connection with Alabama Possible, Kent Anderson, Director of The Hess Center for Leadership and Service Engaged Learning Programs at BSC, explained that juniors from seven different high schools around Birmingham apply to participate in mentoring sessions. However, the sessions taking place in this classroom are particularly unique, because they allow the mentor to be miles away from the students and still make an impact.
Reeve Jacobus, a Birmingham-Southern senior Philosophy major, has worked with Alabama Possible for almost two years. He was also a BSC Hess fellow with Alabama Possible and serves as the Bunting Center for Engaged Study and Community Action student liaison. Jacobus says that when he was working with students face-to-face, “I got to know the students really well…their strengths, their weaknesses.”
Now that Jacobus and twenty-one students are adapting to their new blended learning space, he explains, “There have been a couple challenges. I cannot allow every student to share their answers because of the time challenge. I can’t walk around the classroom.” He notes that their teachers, Grindl Weldon and Toby Holmes, stay in the classroom and help however they can, “I can share my screen with them and pull up helpful websites. Then, I can draw on that screen. They’re really responsive to that.”