More rural Arizona students benefiting from access to college courses thanks to Northland Pioneer College

Show Low, AZ | Submitted by Renell Heister

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At Northland Pioneer College (NPC) in northeastern Arizona, one of the biggest challenges is reaching students in their remote locales. With nine locations and a coverage area roughly the size of West Virginia, it’s the smallest community college in the state. But that hasn’t stopped school leadership from expanding their reach through distance learning opportunities.

Getting instruction to students who are spread over vast distances has been a boon, especially for their youngest students. In 2016, NPC earned a Title III grant to enact Project TALON (Technology to Advance Learning Outcomes at Northland) and deliver concurrent enrollment instruction to high school students.

Through TALON, NPC’s instructors teach their courses utilizing state-of-the-art technology with two monitors, one for the instructor and one to display content. The technology allows students to see their peers at the other high schools who are enrolled in the same course, with cameras that zoom into whomever is speaking, for better communication and connectivity. Best of all for high schools, NPC’s Information Services department handles the installation, maintenance and replacement of all the technology at each participating high school, as well as monitors the live classes.

There are 14 high schools participating, with an additional two joining in the next school year. Currently connected via the TALON network are: Shonto Preparatory, Hopi, Red Mesa, Mogollon, Winslow, Joseph City, Holbrook, Snowflake, Blue Ridge, St. Johns, Monument Valley (Kayenta) and Valley (Sanders), Alchesay and Dishchiibikoh (Cibecue). Courses cover economics, composition, history, math, government and Spanish.

Students who participate and complete the course with at least a C grade earn both high school and college credit for these NPC classes, which are guaranteed to transfer to Arizona’s community colleges and universities.

A success from the outset, TALON has drawn praise from students, parents and high school administrators. Of the initial 192 students enrolled in TALON classes, 90 percent achieved a grade of “C” or better. After five semesters, the successful completion rate remains at 90 percent, with 562 students taking classes totaling 1,218 course enrollments. And impressively, one third of these students are Native American.

There’s even been an increase in students enrolling at NPC, since the TALON program has shown them first-hand that they can succeed at the college level. TALON is already having an impact on the Arizona Education Progress Meter goals to increase high school graduation rates, boost the number of graduates enrolling in higher education and improve attainment overall.

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