University of Texas OnRamps facilitator Alison Mote and Channelview High School OnRamps students Jonathan Paz, Christian Loza and Angel Zepeda investigate radioactive decay through the use of technology programs in Jenelle Million’s Geosciences class. Students in the OnRamps program are able to earn core credits from the University of Texas that will transfer to any public college or university in the state.
Channelview High School launched the program at the beginning of this school year, offering classes in English Language Arts (ELA), Geoscience, Statistics, Pre-Calculus and Physics. The 88 students who are enrolled in the program are taught by CHS teachers who are trained and certified by OnRamps facilitators.
“We are excited to be able to provide these opportunities for our students,” CHS Principal Cindi Ollis said. “OnRamps brings the college experience to the high school classroom and transforms how students learn, while preparing them for post-secondary academic success.”
During the fall semester, students complete a series of required assignments which leads them into the transition of rigorous college-level coursework during the spring. Students that successfully complete the first semester of OnRamps will receive high school course credit. Students that master the second semester of their OnRamps courses will receive three core credits from the University of Texas that will transfer to any public college or university in the state. In addition, students in English classes are eligible for course credit from UT in the fall and spring semesters for a total of six core credits.
“OnRamps offers students authentic college courses that provide them with both the academic expectations and social expectations of college,” said Jennifer Saenz, UT-Austin’s assistant director of strategic partnerships.
For example, Jenelle Million’s Geoscience class involves the study of how biology, physics, chemistry and geology are integrated into the earth’s systems. Million incorporates lectures, group activities and technology to enhance advanced learning skills among her students.
“The content that I teach is the same content that is taught at UT-Austin,” she said. “We use the same labs, similar lectures and tests. My students are required to investigate and work together to solve problems or explain what they are seeing. These methods of teaching helps students to broaden their higher-level thinking skills.”
Incorporating technology into the classroom is an important part of the OnRamps curriculum. Million’s students participate in interactive studies of the Earth’s interior, geologic processes, climate systems and energy systems through the use of website programs and other electronic resources.
“This generation of students grew up with the internet and computers and use them regularly,” Million said. “Using digital platforms of learning naturally helps to reach these students in a way that goes beyond the traditional classroom.”
In Robert Barajas’ Statistics class, students are learning statistical concepts by using computer programming methods. “The university’s philosophy is that it would be a great asset to the students to learn computer code and statistics at the same time,” he said. “It has been an eye-opening experience for my students as some of them had never even considered computer programming as a possible major or future career.”
Unlike a regular high school class where the majority of learning is performing in the classroom, the OnRamps students are responsible for reading and learning the major concepts of the class on their own time like in a college class. Classroom time is used for discussion and collaboration on projects. Students are then required to show mastery of what they’ve learned through exams and quizzes.
Along with the advanced coursework, CHS English teacher Joseph Canicatti believes the OnRamps program prepares students for the rigorous timelines of courses in college classes. In his Rhetoric class, the curriculum is designed to prepare students to better analyze and produce arguments involving a variety of topics and issues.
“OnRamps attempts to provide a link between the vastly different pacing of college and expectations of college,” Canicatti said. “Most of our course is conducted in workshop-style format where the students have learned the topics at home. In class, we will share discussion about what the students have been studying or working on related projects.”
In her experience working with UT’s OnRamps program, Saenz said she has seen the program provide students with valuable access to college resources. She added that this type of support is designed to create a smooth transition for students as they face more challenging grading, deadlines and exams.
“The students get a very real, up-close experience about the expectations of college-level courses,” she said. “They are given the exact same material and coursework that is taught at major universities, but just on an extended time frame. The students are responsible for their own learning. If they are willing to put in the time and effort, the rewards are great.”
To learn more about the OnRamps program, log on to onramps.utexas.edu.