October 11, 2012

Clearing the way for online GED classes

Online GED classes let adult ed students juggle education and life.

by Sarah Einselen

LOGANSPORT — Online learning is spreading to GED classes.

Cass-Logan Educational Attainment Resource started offering its classes preparing students for the General Educational Development test online in mid-September in a move that director Tami McMahan hopes will allow students with difficult schedules or transportation issues to complete their high-school-level education.

Nine students are going through GED classes online through CLEAR, McMahan said. Those students would otherwise have been unable to take the classes.

Three main roadblocks often prevent students from finishing GED classes, said McMahan.

“Transportation is always one huge issue and child care is another huge issue,” she said. “Work schedules would be the third main issue.”

Sometimes classes have to take a back seat to life, too — two women recently gave birth and switched to online classes, McMahan said. Still others thrive doing the online format where they had struggled in the classroom before.

“If they haven’t been successful in a classroom setting, this could be ideal,” said McMahan.

Many of the more than 200 students in ESL and basic education classes at CLEAR need the flexibility of online classes. Some, like Annette Long, 53, have to juggle multiple part-time jobs because they aren’t qualified for full-time positions.

Long, a Logansport student at CLEAR, works two cleaning jobs and is a server at a local catering service. She dropped out of school at 17 years old to support her newborn daughter, she said, and has since worked several low-wage jobs.

“I just want to get a full-time job, work 40 hours, one job and not three,” Long said. “To have enough to take care of myself.”

She started attending face-to-face classes on July 23 to prepare to take the GED test. The classes take place three times a week for three hours a night.

“By the time I get home, after working all day, I’m ready for bed,” she commented.

In her first two months, she had progressed more than three grade levels to an average eighth-grade level in language arts and mathematics. Her 14-year-old grandson helps her with homework at times, though she says she mainly goes to CLEAR instructors with homework questions.

Both online and face-to-face classes are offered free of charge to CLEAR’s students, who pay for the final GED test themselves. That’s been the case since a coalition of local government and business representatives opened the center in October of 2010 with a combination of federal, state and local grant funds.

All potential GED students have to register in person at CLEAR to demonstrate their interest, then can begin working through the GED material online if they go that route. The online program that CLEAR uses tailors its content to each students via a pretest/postest assessment setup.

Students must work at least nine hours per week, then come in to the CLEAR office again after they’ve completed 40 to 50 hours of online work. A CLEAR instructor monitors each student’s progress and can tweak the material manually as needed.

Extensive review tools within the online program allow instructors to see exactly where a student is struggling or excelling, too.

After two and a half weeks, the center had run into some technical compatibility issues between students’ computers and the GED program, but those problems had been resolved.

McMahan said the new online classes fit with the center’s focus on “what’s best for the learner.”

“That’s what drives the instruction. That’s what drives the decisions we make,” she said.

To inquire about English as a Second Language or General Educational Development test preparation classes, call Cass-Logan Education Attainment Resource at 574-722-5209. CLEAR is located at 2815 E. Market St., Logansport.