The Olentangy Local School District's post-secondary enrollment program gives high school students the chance to rack up college credits early by enrolling in classes at area colleges.
But participants usually are faced with large classes and limited interaction with professors.
Advanced Placement courses are a good option for students to earn credits at their home school, but redeeming those credits comes down to a student's performance on a single test that caps off the course.
Olentangy officials say the district's brand-new "dual enrollment" program combines the best elements of the two options -- without the drawbacks.
Enrollment is now open for dual enrollment courses for the 2013-14 school year.
Like post-secondary classes, dual enrollment classes are based on a college course curriculum and are offered on a college campus: Columbus State Community College's Delaware campus, 5100 Cornerstone Drive in Delaware.
That gives students a feel for the college environment, said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jack Fette.
Like an AP class, dual enrollment courses are taught by current Olentangy high school instructors with a small class -- no more than 25 students.
"They're taking a college curriculum at Columbus State, but they still have the support of their high school teachers and guidance counselors," Fette said.
It's also much cheaper than college enrollment, in which a single college class could cost several thousand dollars.
Dual enrollment courses cost $25 per credit hour. Enrollment in Physics I, a five-credit-hour course, will cost $125.
To kick off the program next year, Olentangy teachers will offer English I, Calculus I and II, and Physics I and II.
Kevin Streib will teach calculus. He said dual enrollment is a good way to get college credits in a safe environment.
He said credits are awarded based on an aggregate grade for each semester instead of a single test, as in the AP model.
"If you have a bad day and you don't pass that one test, you don't get college credit for that whole year," he said. "This is a full college course with midterms and quizzes and tests and homework. Your grade is based on your performance through the entire semester."
Ben McKibben will teach English. He said dual enrollment gives students more face time with teachers.
In a typical college class, teachers recommend two hours of studying for every one hour of lecture.
But unlike college classes that meet just a few times per week, dual enrollment courses meet daily.
"In dual enrollment, some of those outside hours will be spent with the teacher," McKibben said. "There's much more contact with the person teaching the class."
There's at least one downside to dual enrollment. Though college credits are guaranteed to transfer to every public college and university in Ohio, in addition to some private schools such as Otterbein and Ohio Wesleyan universities, it might not transfer out of state.
"AP credit is a bit more flexible than that," McKibben said.