A high-school student who also is enrolled in distance learning with Troy University is the newest GetEducated.com online college scholarship winner.
Megan McConnell, 17, of Montgomery, AL, hopes to become a sign language interpreter for deaf schoolchildren. She is taking online college classes through Troy University's new ECampus Accelerate program, while finishing her senior year of high school at Prattville Christian Academy.
Megan has been awarded a $1,000 GetEducated.com Excellence in Online Education Scholarship for her academic work and extracurricular activities. She is working toward her bachelor's degree in interpreter training at Troy, an Alabama-based school which offers both on-campus and online degree programs.
In addition to working with deaf children in schools, Megan would like to use her degree to start a deaf ministry at her church.
"This is a great need where I live," she says. "Many deaf people have not been taught about the love of God because hearing people do not want to learn their language to tell them."
Megan says she became interested in learning sign language due to her mother's boss, who is the child of deaf parents and whose mother sometimes visits the credit union where Megan's mother works. Megan's mother learned sign language in order to communicate with her boss' mother.
"I picked up a little from my mom," says Megan. "I've always liked it."
For Megan, earning her online degree will mean more than job security. "The main reason I want a degree," she says, "is so I can help others and serve them."
Megan attends high school from 7:45 to 3 p.m. One of her class periods is set aside for her dual enrollment class; she also does some of her college work at home.
For her sign language class, Megan got a webcam for her computer in order to 'sign' for the camera. "You connect it to the computer and it's basically video feed over the Internet right there," she says. "You can see the instructor and the other students."
Amy Spry, coordinator of Troy University's new Accelerate program, calls Megan one of the bravest students she's encountered.
"Megan started out taking American sign language courses online and, as you can imagine, there are a lot of technical components to a sign language class completed over the Internet," says Spry. "I thought that was awful brave to tackle that as her first online class ever! She did a fantastic job in it."
After she graduates from high school, Megan may attend Troy's residential campus, which is about 30 miles from home. For now, though, online learning is working better for her: "I think it's kind of easier —I get to choose what time of day I want to do it, instead of having a certain time."
Troy began its Accelerate Dual Enrollment Online program in the summer of 2009. Since then, about 50 students have participated, says Spry.
"Students take general studies courses that will apply to any degree program and—if their high school administration agrees—the student earns dual enrollment credit," she says. "So, they do the work once, and get credit twice!"
Spry estimates the average distance learning Accelerate student saves $5,229 per semester over a traditional campus experience. She believes dual enrollment programs such as Troy offers are on the rise because "distance learning is becoming much more widely accepted. People are realizing what flexibility and advantages online classes offer students."
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