Three classes will be offered this semester, and others will be taught throughout the year.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Catching a lecture at Slippery Rock University won't mean a long drive for some New Castle students this fall.
SRU has agreed to offer distance learning classes at the Lawrence County Learning Center at 131 Columbus Inner Belt.
That means students will attend class in New Castle by watching an instructor, who is miles away, via video monitor. The monitor has a two-way camera and microphone that allows the instructor to see and interact with the students.
Until now, most courses offered at the Learning Center were taught by an instructor who traveled to New Castle. The Learning Center is an educational consortium that provides space for colleges, universities and other institutions to offer classes.
"It will add to a number of things we are doing here," said Arthur Zarone, executive director of the Learning Center.
Traditional courses: Since opening in 1997, the Learning Center has offered traditional courses with the instructor present through Butler and Beaver County community colleges, Penn State Shenango and other institutions.
A growing number of Internet-based courses are being offered each year through the Northern Tier, a consortium of state colleges and universities, which allow students to get assignments and information by computer.
Since buying the interactive video equipment in 1999, the Learning Center has offered a limited number of distance learning courses through Northern Tier schools, which include SRU.
However, the new agreement between the Learning Center and Slippery Rock is separate from the Northern Tier and will allow more distance learning courses to be offered each semester at the Learning Center, said Dr. James Kushner, SRU's dean of lifelong learning.
"Anything we have on the schedule could be offered at the Learning Center. It depends on the students and if they have the prerequisites needed," he said.
Interactive classes: SRU is starting the fall semester at the Learning Center with three interactive televised courses, two on accounting and one on Russian language and culture. Class begins Aug. 27.
Additional classes will be offered throughout the fall, Kushner said.
The interactive television technology allows SRU to deliver classes on demand and not follow the traditional college semester schedule, he noted.
University officials plan to meet with Zarone and Lawrence County business leaders next month to determine what other courses could be useful to the area.
"We want to get ideas from the Chamber of Commerce and area businesses. We will respond to the ideas they give us," Kushner said. He added that could mean programs and seminars for businesses or senior citizens.
Community outreach: It's part of a new mission for SRU set by President Warren Smith to offer more community outreach.
"Today's learners are totally different than when I went to college. You have to respond to their needs and when they can go to classes," Kushner said.
Zarone added that large number of people taking courses at the Learning Center have full-time jobs and do not have time to travel far for classes.
He noted that Learning Center students are not solely Lawrence County residents; some come from Beaver and Mercer counties to take courses.
Students enroll and pay tuition to the college or university that offers the class, Zarone said. Fall classes at the Learning Center begin later this month and begin on the same dates as their counterparts at the colleges and universities offering the classes, he said.