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Program offers in-person experiences for ASU Prep Digital students

Online high school students participate in discussions, project-based learning in hybrid format


Group of students and teachers standing on the banks of a lake.
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July 26, 2022

With online learning on the rise, more high school students are accessing their education fully online. Although online learning offers great flexibility, some students want more face time with their teachers and peers.

Enter ASU Prep Local — a new program from ASU Preparatory Academy offering in-person collaboration, discussions and project-based learning in small group settings on Arizona State University campuses for online high school students.

In the spring 2022 semester, ASU Prep partnered with the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences to pilot the first in-person experience on the West campus for ASU Prep Digital students.

Through the program, 19 high school students engaged in a number of project-based learning activities led by New College faculty, including planting trees in the Desert Restoration Zone, conducting water testing at Lake Pleasant, and analyzing mock crime scenes and fingerprints in the crime scene lab at the West campus. Students also worked with faculty and lab mentors in the Communication Lab (CommLabASU) to hone their communication skills.

Group of students gathered in a desert setting, listening to an instructor.

ASU Professor Majia Nadesan shows students the Desert Restoration Zone at ASU's West campus. Photo courtesy New College

“It’s really important for New College to engage with ASU Prep because of our commitment to education for everybody, diversity, access, inclusion…” said Lara Ferry, senior associate dean of research and strategic initiatives at New College. “We want to embrace what all different kinds of learners bring to our table.”

Over the course of the semester, students engaged with 23 faculty members, five staff members and 15 current or recently-graduated ASU students, including PhD students and undergraduate mentors.  

This fall, the program at the West campus is expanding to a yearlong program offering students two in-person days on campus to enhance their online experience and to engage with ASU faculty through project-based learning.

In addition to the West campus, the yearlong, hybrid program will be offered in the 2022–23 school year in Mesa at ASU's Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center. Additionally, one-day-a-week, semester-long experiences will be offered on the Polytechnic and Tempe campuses.

​​“ASU Prep leads the way in designing new models for educational success, and we put the learners at the center of our design,” said Betsy Fowler, executive director of school design at ASU Prep. “These new models provide more flexible options for families and create opportunities for students to begin a college pathway while in high school.”

ASU Prep hopes to continue expanding ASU Prep Local to offer hybrid learning experiences on every ASU campus across the Valley and beyond.

“We cannot thank the team at the ASU West campus enough for their support of ASU Prep’s inaugural ASU Prep Local cohort,” said Megan Hanley, director of strategic initiatives at ASU Prep. “Over the course of a semester, we saw students experience life on a college campus and be entrusted by faculty to engage in college-level work. We saw students grow and develop in their communication skills, presentation skills and in their critical thinking skills.”

“Students made connections that will last a lifetime with each other and with the ASU West campus. We are so excited to be offering more programs for the upcoming school year and are looking forward to continuing to connect with the ASU West faculty and its programs.”

ASU Prep Local is currently enrolling for the fall 2022 semester and aims to have two cohorts of 30 students at the West and Mesa campuses.

Top photo: Clinical Associate Professor Susie Sandrin and Clinical Assistant Professor Cara Thompson take students on a field trip to Lake Pleasant to test soil and water samples. Photo courtesy New College

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