PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Mari Anne Fell is an Elementary Education senior at Southern Miss. She is getting valuable on-the-job experience as a teacher's assistant.
"I'm able to work full time and go to college, and to able to get hands-on experience to see if this is truly what I want to do with my life," Fell said.
While Fell is practicing her teaching skills at Jackson Elementary School in Pascagoula, miles away, her professors are watching her every move at their office at the USM Teaching Site in Gautier.
Using a web cam connected to a laptop computer, and a SKYPE video conferencing account, the assistant professors can observe and evaluate Fell and 17 other online Elementary Education students who are working in the field.
"We started the program because we saw a need," said Assistant Professor Dr. Kelley Samblis. "There were a lot of teacher's assistants that were not able to come to school, come to face-to-face classes. So we thought, let's offer an online venue for them."
The assistant professors can communicate with their students through a Bluetooth ear piece and give them instant feedback.
"If there's a problem, we can just whisper in their ear with the headpiece, when we're talking on the microphone," said Assistant Professor Holly Hardin Hulbert. "But if not, we just let it alone and we talk to them as soon as it's over."
This new system also saves time, because the students don't have to leave their jobs to attend lab sessions at another school.
"These teacher's assistants are able to remain employed, keep their benefits and still go to school," said Hulbert. "We're trying to serve them and they're also getting more experience."
The USM professors are working with a leading educational technology vendor to improve the online program and expand it nationwide.