Search For:

Share This

College Comes Home

Tammy Cann-Caudell was achieving her dream of helping children with speech
problems, after earning a bachelor’s degree in 1994 and becoming a licensed speech
pathology assistant. Still, she longed to earn a master’s degree to do a better
job for the children and to open new career options for her.

But time and money were tight, and she had to work full time to qualify
for medical insurance. Eleven years earlier, the 28-year-old Booneville resident
was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Just one of her medications costs more
than $12,000 a year.

A career-boosting solution appeared when Caudell attended a meeting
where she visited a booth for the Commonwealth Virtual University (CVU). A few
weeks later, in the fall of 1999, Caudell became one of 265 students from across
the state to enroll in the university’s first semester. Now she’s earning that
degree, attending classes by computer from the convenience of her home.

“I avoid the pain and stiffness of sitting in class for hours, carrying
a backpack full of books, walking all over campus as well as up and down stairs,”
says Caudell. “Most of all, I avoid note-taking. The hours I used to spend in
class taking notes were torture on my hands. Now I can pace myself, which is
so important with my condition. I have everything at my fingertips, and to get
the class notes, I simply press the ‘print’ button.”

The Virtual University is among the ways Kentucky leads the nation in
applying computers and the Internet to education.

Four years ago, a state mandate called the Kentucky Education Technology System
made $620 million available to get every Kentucky classroom hooked up to the
Internet. As a result, today Kentucky is near the top nationwide in terms of
Internet access in the classroom, with 72 percent of classrooms wired compared
with 52 percent nationwide.

And now, Dr. Mary Beth Susman, CEO of the Commonwealth Virtual University,
says, “We want to provide a complete college education through the Internet.”

Susman is a tiny woman with huge dreams and a knack for making those
dreams a reality. Recruited to Kentucky from Colorado after she established
a virtual community college there, she has built the CVU from the ground up
and seen enrollment jump to 1,788 in just the second semester. This summer marks
the third semester for CVU, which is a part of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary
Education. CVU now offers 160 courses and about 10 certification programs online.

Her goal is to design a system where students can get anything they need-from
admission to books-with only two clicks of a computer mouse.

While she hasn’t achieved that goal yet, Susman and her team have laid
a solid foundation. Students can apply online. In fact, Kentucky is the only
state in the U.S. where you can now complete a single application, and use it
to apply to as many of the participating schools (57 at present) as you wish
at one time.

Students can register for classes online, pay for them online, and even
search for scholarships. There is an online library, the Commonwealth Virtual
Library, which can get you any book in Kentucky’s public library system and
even send it to you if you are in a remote location. Information and counseling
on careers, financial aid, tutoring services, and technical help are also available

How to Learn Good Things on the Internet

Parents can encourage the right kind of Internet learning at home. Here
are some tips and Web sites recommended by Lydia Wells Sledge, director of Customer
Support Services for the Office of Education Technology with the Kentucky Department
of Education:

1. Place the family computer in a fairly public part of the house-not
the child’s own room-to make supervision easier. Just like walking around a
new city, exploring the Internet can lead to undesirable places. A parent’s
eye over the shoulder provides the best precautions.

2. Explain to the child that he or she must NOT give out personal information.
The recent Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents businesses
from gathering information from children under 13, but parental guidance and
supervision can help. (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act went into
effect April 21. The Web site has several sources
of information about it. A site with detailed information on how to comply with
the act is

3. Some Web sites are great “lap-ware.” In other words, they are best
explored by a parent with a child in the lap or by your side.

4. If the weather is good, turn off the computer, go outside, and play!

Web Sites for Elementary Students

A favorite for small children is Dr. Seuss, at

Not the most fun math site we’ve ever seen but a good chance to practice on
those basic facts-Mad Math Minutes-

The Amazing Picture
in the name of almost anything to see a picture of it.

Web Sites for Middle School Students, worms, and gross
things about how the human body works.

almost any question. The version just for kids is easy to use and forgiving
of spelling. You can find it at

Africam’s site stations live cameras at various water holes. You can check on
them at various times of night and day to catch wildlife in

The Underground Railroad-an interactive site filled with

Web Sites for High School Students

Get credit for working on your computer. Visit
to find out what courses are being offered via distance learning
at the Kentucky Virtual High School. Enroll through your high school.

American College Testing
has scholarship information, practice questions, online registration for tests,
careers, etc., as well as lots of additional resources.

SAT Site.

Example of homework hotline:

Web Sites for All

Tori Murden-McClure, Kentucky’s heroine who rowed single-handedly across the
Atlantic Ocean, can be found at
where her letters from the edge are wonderful reading.

The Kentucky Commonwealth Virtual Library is free to all Kentucky citizens.
All you need is a free ID and password, which you may get by calling your local
public library. Then you may access it by going to
One of the best services it offers is called “Novelist.” If you type in the
name of an author or a type of book, or the title of a book you really liked,
it will suggest other books you might enjoy. Works well for children and adults.

Big-name favorites:

  • Smithsonian
  • The White
    (Type this one in carefully. There’s at least one nearly identical address
    that is not recommended for children.)

High School Gets Portable

Online learning isn’t just for college students in Kentucky. As of January
24, 2000, there is also a virtual high school.

The idea is to provide a way for high school students to learn independent of
time and place, and take courses they couldn’t get any other way, says Robert
Hackworth, an engineer with the Kentucky Virtual High School, which is part
of the Kentucky Department of Education.

“We try to offer a broad range of the core classes such as algebra
and the sciences, which match up with Kentucky’s core content,” he says. “We
also offer electives such as oceanography, Latin, and higher-level German that
smaller schools might not have the resources to offer.”

The Kentucky Virtual High School does not grant credit. That comes from
the local high school. Students must be enrolled in their local high school
and sign up through their school. Credits appear on their high school transcript
just like other classes.

Once enrolled, students receive an e-mail containing their user name
and password. They are instructed to go to a Web site where they see their course
and can begin. Students are required to have an e-mail address and Internet
access (which can be provided by the school or public library) so they can interact
with the teacher, receive and turn in assignments, and participate in student/teacher
conferences. They also need to be computer-literate.

In its first semester, the virtual high school had 150 students from
throughout the state. Teachers also came from throughout the state, according
to Hackworth.

“All our teachers have Kentucky certification,” he says. “This is very

Hackworth says the Kentucky Virtual High School is not that different
from regular high school.

“A lot of the same things apply to our high school as a brick-and-mortar
school,” he says. “Teachers want to teach. Students want to learn, to get something.
A lot of our students haven’t been geeks or computer gurus. They are just normal
students with schedules that didn’t allow for a certain class they really wanted
to take.”

The fall schedule is posted. To find out more, go to

Classes by Computer-What’s it Like?

When you attend Commonwealth Virtual University you have class notes,
participate in discussions, and take tests, but with a difference.

Students start a class by signing on to the Internet with their computer
and modem and going to, where they use a password to get to the
course they are taking. From there they find a six-part document detailing the
purpose of the class; course objectives; lessons with notes; assignments; resources
and hyperlinks; and a summary of the class.

To let students interact, many professors schedule online discussion
groups. Some use teleconferencing equipment so students can actually see each
other. Others encourage use of the telephone.

In fact, the high degree of contact between students and teacher has
been the most surprising aspect of online learning, says Dr. Stan Cooke, head
of communication disorders at Western Kentucky University.

“The interaction with students has been a phenomenal thing,” Cooke says.
“In one class the students made 10,000 hits in discussion groups alone this
semester. They actually have much more access to me and much more interaction
than on-campus students. We’ve all been blown away by this. Even though it is
not face-to-face, there is so much more interaction with online classes.”

There are other bonuses as well. For example, once a student submits
a test online and pushes the “submit” button, the test is automatically scored.
The student knows the results instantly.

Cooke is a great believer in online learning but warns that the experience
is not for everyone.

“You do have to be motivated,” he says. “You have to want to participate
and you have to have the discipline to do the work.”

High Tech Terms

For other definitions go online through the Internet and the World Wide Web
to a virtual dictionary at
(that’s where we got help defining these words).

E-mail: Short for electronic mail. Messages produced on a computer
and sent to other computers. Sending e-mail over the Internet can reach other
computers all over the world almost instantly.

Hits: Number of visits to a Web page. If five people call up
a Web page on their computer, that is recorded as five hits, whether they look
at it for three seconds or three hours.

Hyperlink: An Internet address in an e-mail or Web page that will
automatically bring to your computer screen the Web site indicated by that address.
You use a hyperlink by clicking with a computer mouse on a hypertext address,
which you can recognize because it is usually underlined and/or highlighted
in a different color.

Internet: A global network connecting millions of computers,
mostly through telephone lines.

Modem: A device or program that lets a computer transmit data
over telephone lines. If you’re interested, it’s an acronym for “modulator-demodulator.”

Mouse: A device that controls the movement of the cursor, or pointer,
on a computer display screen. Pressing, or “clicking,” a button on the mouse
activates programs described on the computer screen. Its name comes from its
shape, which looks a bit like a mouse.

Online: Being connected to the Internet by having your computer
in contact with another computer through telephone lines, and therefore being
“on the line.”

Virtual: A physical thing that exists as just an idea. Someone
sitting in an airport working on a laptop computer and using a cellular phone
might be said to be working in a virtual office.

Web: Short for the World Wide Web, a system of computers that
supports a special, standardized language that allows documents, graphics, audio,
and video files to be easily linked. Not all Internet systems are part of the
World Wide Web.

Web site: A location on the World Wide Web. A document on a Web
site is a Web page. Each Web site is owned and managed by an individual, company,
or organization.

Virtual U info

To find out more about the Commonwealth Virtual University, go to
or call toll-free (877) 740-4257.

Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.