One Room University will offer college classes to county residents
Pocahontas County may never be home to a state university or a private college, but it is one step closer to having a One Room University which will offer two-year and four-year degrees.
County Coordinator Jay Miller has been working with New River Community and Technical College and the Pocahontas County Commission to create a university in Marlinton for Pocahontas County residents.
"The purpose of the One Room University is to allow residents of Pocahontas County to attend live college classes without moving away or commuting to Lewisburg, Beckley, Elkins or Covington, which is where people tend to go if they have to complete classes that are not available here," Miller said.
NRCTC has partnered with the county commission to offer Interactive Video Networking (IVN) classes at the One Room University. The college courses offered at Pocahontas County High School are also IVN.
"IVN has been used at the high school for years to provide live instruction to students in the nursing program and that are taking dual credit courses," Miller said. "IVN itself is not new and New River providing IVN classes is not new. What is new is the idea of down scaling IVN classes from a classroom size to a study carrel size so that one person in one place at one time can participate in a live class."
Miller explained that the IVN classes are not online college courses, they are classes streamed live to a classroom on a computer through a web camera.
Although NRCTC has joined the county commission to create the One Room University, it alone cannot offer all the college classes needed to complete a two-year or four-year degree.
"They have suggested that they want to involve other colleges, four year schools, that all have locations in the Beckley area; Concord University, Bluefield State College and Mountain State College," Miller said. "They are proposing that they would broker IVN classes not only for themselves, but for those other schools so that a more robust class schedule could be available to students here in Pocahontas County."
According to Miller, residents interested in attending the One Room University will have to have a GED or high school diploma and will pick up where they would have if they had gone to college at age 18.
In the first year, Miller said around 10-to-15 students would be able to enroll in classes.
"We don't know specifically how many we can accept until we are able to announce what classes are available," he explained. "We don't have a fully fledged program to announce until New River can work with us after the beginning of the semester to actually put together a prospectus for what might be available for next fall."
Compiling information from two surveys, Miller said residents who are interested in attending the One Room University would prefer night classes and would need childcare.
"People want to have the option to go during the day, but 50 percent of respondents indicated that they really need classes at night," he said. "What we are trying to identify in a third survey is the need for childcare up to the age of 14 and transportation being a barrier to participation."
Miller said most of the respondents to the surveys live in the Hillsboro and Marlinton areas, with a few from the northern end of the county. The majority of them indicated that transportation would not be an issue.
The proposed site for the One Room University is the second floor of the City National Bank building in Marlinton. The building has separate outside access for the students to enter the second floor without entering the bank.
Plans and funding are still in the works, but Miller said a "dry run" semester will occur this spring to identify any kinks there may be in the program.