FAMU Developmental Research School alliance pioneers online learning strategy


TALLAHASSEE — A new research project designed to develop online learning methods and technologies is underway at the Florida A& M University (FAMU) Developmental Research School (DRS) in a public-private partnership between the University’s Division of Research, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and the University of Phoenix (UOPX).

The project is the first to apply online learning and teaching methods at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

DRS provided a guided tour of the laboratory where students showed state lawmakers, a host of elected officials and educators on how online learning works.

For senior Aston Edmunds, taking his American government class online gives him an advantage.

“I’m a visual learner. The different tutorials and the different notes that they teach us before we take the test online are very helpful,” Edmunds said.

Program Coordinator Sheila LaBissiere said: “We are able to tailor our programs to fit our students,” LaBissiere said. “We understand the needs of our students. The blended learning of student access combined with online resources is a major strength in the program.”

Because African-American high school students struggle to meet ACT benchmarks, the alliance believes their online teaching strategies could be a remedy. College readiness requires a change to traditional teaching methods and the alliance believes the FAMU DRS program will help students meet those important goals, close academic gaps and improve the chances of an on-time college graduation.

The unique collaborative effort developed a new “blended” learning education classroom to improve student learning, teacher resources and to ultimately project STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) content to low wealth communities around the state of Florida.

“FAMU is proud that this initiative did not cost the taxpayers of Florida a single dime.  We believe that it is precisely these kinds of cost effective and unique partnerships – led by FAMU- that are the key to helping minority students to not just graduate but to excel on their pathway to becoming the scientific, policy and leaders of the future,” according to FAMU Vice President of Research, Timothy E. Moore, Ph.D.

FAMU’s plan expanded online college courses and a similar learning continuum for students at the DRS from kindergarten through 12th grade. UOPX developed the online learning platform and professional development for DRS teachers and FAMU professors. In January, FAMU DRS launched three online courses for middle and high students – Algebra I, Economics and Spanish.

“We did three classes in January. We plan to add four to five in the fall. We will continue to add on, said University of Phoenix Chief Financial Officer Byron Jones. “We are here to serve FAMU DRS as long as they will have us.”

Giving students the vital tools needed at the high school level for a higher education will ensure their readiness for college and give them opportunities for a bright future, affirms TMCF President & CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.

“We look forward to leading the way in discovering innovative solutions that will help other HBCUs gain access to cutting edge technology solutions and online classes aimed to increase student retention and graduation rates,” Taylor, Jr. stated.

The FAMU DRS online assets:

• Cost saving ownership of online program.

• Greater access for low wealth middle and high school students to college credits.

• Close the achievement gap for low wealth students.

• Teachers capable of remediating and accelerating exceptional students.

• FAMU DRS online establishes feeder program of students able to meet the mandated Performance Matrix 4year graduation standard.

• The public private partnership improves student performance at no cost to the taxpayer.

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