LAKEVIEW — Saylor Antle is 16 and in her second year of taking college courses at Klamath Community College. She’s done it without leaving her hometown of Lakeview. The farthest she has to go is a three-minute walk from Lakeview High School to the Innovation and Learning Center around the corner.
What does she like about it?
“Everything,” Saylor said. “I’m not sitting in a classroom bored out of my mind. And it’s interesting to learn views you aren’t taught in high school.”
The Innovation and Learning Center, or ILC, is in its second year. It started offering classes in the fall of 2013 via the Internet. But these are no computer-based Internet courses. These courses are taught in synchronicity with classes on the KCC Klamath Falls campus. Live video of teachers are beamed from KCC to Lakeview via computer and TV screens.
“It’s truly like you’re sitting right there, in the class, with the professor,” said Sean Gallagher, Lake County School District No. 7 superintendent.
“It was very futuristic in the beginning,” Saylor said. “After that first term it wasn’t horribly disconcerting. I’d come in, sit down, wait for the history teacher to call or wait for the math teacher to call.”
How it works
Lakeview has a population of 2,300 people and is located almost 100 miles east of Klamath Falls. It’s 140 miles from Burns, 175 miles from Bend and almost 200 miles from Redding, Calif.
“How do we deliver a strong, higher education presence to a remote, rural community?” Gallagher asked.
“We are very remote,” said Christy Tveit, Lake County program director for KCC. “And it’s a challenge.”
The ILC offers face-to-face classes, where an instructor teaches in Lakeview, but with such a small community, it’s onerous to rally enough students for a full college class.
“You always have to have at least 12, 13, 14, 15 students to attract enough tuition to able to pay an instructor,” Gallagher said. “In a remote, rural school setting, or community setting, that’s always difficult. You may have four or five students that need Writing 121, but you don’t have that magical number of 12 or 13 you need to make a class go.”
The ILC also offers strictly online college courses, but the synchronous classes are a different, and many say better, scenario.
“The synchronous technology is really, really cool,” Gallagher said. “It’s like you’re sitting right there in the class. The professor is over in Klamath Falls, teaching a class full of students already, but they’re also broadcasting the class over here to the ILC. The teacher can see into the classroom like they were just sitting right there in his class or her class over there in Klamath Falls.”
“The teacher lectures,” Saylor explained, “and we have two screens. One with the teacher in the class, the other screen is a PowerPoint or video or pictures or stuff to write.”
Saylor prefers the synchronous classes to online classes because she can interact with her instructors. She’s an audio learner, as she plays nearly every musical instrument at school specializing in clarinet and oboe.
“I do a mix of visual and auditory,” she said. “I can’t completely learn off a computer screen. I have to hear a lot of the stuff. Seeing it up on the screen and hearing the teacher talk about it is a lot of help.”
When the ILC first started in the fall of 2013, there were about 25 students taking 270 credits. In the spring of 2015 there are more than 60 students taking more than 400 credits.
The program had its first associate’s degree college graduate last fall, and another in winter. Four are set to graduate at the end of this term.
“It’s affordable, it’s accessible and it’s making a huge difference for our students,” Tveit said. “There’s an opportunity here that has never existed before. It’s one thing for students to go to school and take a class online. It’s completely another for them to complete their education and get a degree. That’s what’s happening here.”
In addition to high school students, Tveit said the ILC gives college students and older students a chance to access higher education without leaving home.
“A lot of our students are married, have children. They have a life here,” she said. “They have a family and work. The fact they can obtain their college degree living in their home town is huge.”
Saylor is taking courses at the ILC and earning both college and high school credits.
“That allows them to enter college with a head start compared to other students that just have a traditional diploma,” Gallagher said.
Heading from high school to college to career is another goal of the ILC, and of the Lake County school district.
“What is your career pathway? Where do you want to end up? Let’s start building backwards what you need to be doing now to better prepare yourself for that result,” Gallagher said. “Whether you want to be a certified welder, or a nurse, or a doctor or a professor or an engineer or a businessman. Whatever your career pathway is, let’s start building it now and figure out what do you need to be doing now to prepare yourself for success in that filed. Giving yourself a little bit of that head start I talked about earlier.”
Saylor has always been an academic student. She was reading beyond high school level in seventh grade. Her parents, Dan and Jennifer, served in the Marine Corps and moved around a lot until the family came to Lakeview a year and a half ago. Soon after arriving there, Saylor took tests to land her in college courses.
“It’s extremely fast paced. You have to make sure to do all the homework or you’d fall extremely, extremely behind,” Saylor said. “It definitely takes a lot of hard work. I think last term I put in at least two hours of homework a night for three classes.”
Learning for the future
Saylor is a high school junior this year and will continue taking college classes and high school classes for her senior year. After that, she plans to pursue the Advanced Diploma Program, staying enrolled as a fifth-year senior at Lakeview High for another free year of classes at KCC. By the time she finishes that fifth year, she plans to have her associate’s degree in hand. After KCC she’ll head to Oregon State University to study medicine.
“I want to make something of myself,” she said.
“I tell students, don’t stop with your high school education. You’ve got to keep going,” Gallagher said. “If they want to graduate from Oregon State University? Great. If they want to get their training in military? Great. Maybe it’s an apprenticeship or a technical college or a trade school. But don’t stop with your high school education. That’s not going to open those doors of opportunity you want to see open. The more education, more of a skill-set you have, the more opportunities you’re going to have for yourself and your future.”