A Teacher Named ELI

September 25, 1993

Eli was a famous Hebrew teacher, who taught the learned judge Samuel of biblical times. The name is the same as that of an exceptional new teacher in Harford County, one that employs DTC video cameras, cablecasts, and video tapes.

ELI, or the Extended Learning Initiative, is a pilot project that records live classroom lessons taught at Harford Community College and transmits them by cable to high schools, which then make tapes for their students to study for credit-courses on campus or at home.

A half-dozen Harford students are taking advanced calculus through ELI, the first course offered by the innovative system.

Homework and tests are delivered by courier to and from the four high schools that have students enrolled in this semester's program. The off-campus pupils can telephone HCC instructor Jean Willan with questions, or consult the math teachers in their high school assigned as supervisors (who also administer the exams).

ELI allows high school students to take advanced courses that are not offered in their schools because of insufficient interest. It's especially valuable for students in smaller high schools, where course offerings are often more limited.

Unlike the college-level courses taken by high schoolers in past years, ELI students don't have the hassle and the wasted time of traveling to the live class: it's a much more efficient method. And with high school teachers as a resource, help isn't confined to re-reading or re-viewing the lesson.

Obviously, the kids who sign up for these special classes (for which they receive both high school and college credits) are motivated and bright; they will likely succeed without benefit of real-time interactive classroom questioning.

The system isn't for all pupils; it doesn't lend itself to courses where discussion is a vital part of the learning process. But more HCC courses, and not just math, could certainly be offered to high schools in the future.

Credit should go to Joseph Mills, county public schools math supervisor, and Norman Tracy, alternative programs director at the community college, for developing ELI. It's a happy, cost-effective collaboration of the two Harford educational systems.

Video tapes have sometimes been oversold as an effective instructional instrument. But ELI's thoughtful, effective use of resources produces a clear picture of educational innovation that will expand the learning options for Harford's youth.

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