Three Northern Oklahoma College students are attending class via interactive television (ITV) at the Ponca Tribal Access Center. The Ponca tribal members are Reagan Cole, Megan Merritt, and William Rhodd.
Reagan Cole works for the Ponca Tribe Education and Training Department and is completing her Associate Degree in Education. After graduation, she plans to attend Oklahoma State University and major in secondary education.
Cole is taking one ITV course and four online courses. She described taking classes at the Ponca access site by saying, “To me, the ITV/online courses feel more flexible than the traditional in-class courses. Because I work full-time, I can’t afford to miss too many hours being on campus in Tonkawa. The ITV site is right down the road from me, and I still get the benefit of being part of instructor-led discussions.”
Cole continued, “The majority of my schedule this semester is online, which is also nice because I can set my own schedule for when I want to access NOC courses. If not for the opportunity to take classes locally, I would not be in the position to work toward my degree at NOC Tonkawa.”
Megan Merritt is a freshman majoring in Business Administration. She was a 2018 graduate of Ponca City High School. This is her first semester to take classes at the Ponca tribal access site.
William Rhodd is the experienced member of the group. This is his second semester to take classes via ITV and online at the Ponca access site. Rhodd is a freshman majoring in Computer Science and is unsure if he will go straight to work after obtaining his associate degree or continue his education.
Rhodd is enjoying this semester because, “my class lectures are recorded which makes it easier for me to take notes.”
The Ponca access site is funded by NOC’s Title III Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institute (NASNTI) grant. Each access site is equipped with three computers, an ITV screen, plus a video camera.
Grant Director, Dr. Rae Ann Kruse said, “Six area tribes worked closely with NOC to recommend ways to improve Native American student retention and graduation rates.”
The tribes suggested transportation to the Tonkawa campus, but the grant was not able to fund travel costs. As an alternative, access sites were developed at six area tribal educational centers. ITV classes allow students and teachers to interact in real time and see each other through video cameras located in the classrooms.
Gina Conneywerdy serves as the NOC Native American student advisor. She commented, “Through the NASNTI grant, NOC is able to provide personalized academic services for Ponca students.”
Kruse added, “In addition to the access sites, the NASNTI grant is providing other academic services.” Last school year, one of ten Native American mentors contacted all Native American freshmen students to provide guidance and encouragement. Over 66 percent of the Native American freshmen took advantage of academic mentoring.
This school year, the Native American mentors are focusing on NA students who might need extra academic support. The mentors are working professionals from several different tribes and usually contact the students via email, text messages, and phone calls.
Photo L-R: William Rhodd, Reagan Cole, and Megan Merritt wrap up their American History class. The NOC students are taking online and ITV classes at the Ponca Access Site.