Hesperians looking to take the GED test but who find themselves wrestling with work or family commitments have a new option, quietly rolled out by the Hesperia Unified School District this fall.


"We started it in October," said HUSD adult education teacher Dede Smith. "We did a real soft rollout with it. We're now at about a third capacity of what we will have for this year. ... We're hoping to have about 100. We've got 36 now."


Smith and fellow teacher Kim Walker created the HUSD's online program, which uses an online curriculum program called Odysseyware.


"When a student comes into our program, we give them a placement test and we individualize their coursework for them exclusively," said Smith. "We have students who come in who may be at the third grade level and we may have other students who are just about ready to take the test."


"If they're sitting in a GED class, they're getting what everyone is getting," said Walker. "If they're doing it online, they only get what they need, not what everyone else needs."


The General Educational Development test actually is a series of tests covering five subjects -- writing, social studies, science, reading and mathematics -- and obviously, not all adults pursuing their GED will be equally skilled in all areas.


"There's 3D animations, there's video clips, there's audio clips. It also has the interactive games," said Walker. "It also has a translation feature so students can learn the lessons in other languages."


The instruction all conforms to state standards, the teachers said, and only the teaching is online, taking the test requires "actual seat time," in Smith's words.


The online training is supplemented by in-person one-on-one tutoring as needed. But the ability to have lessons any time and theoretically almost anywhere is the big appeal of the program, according to the pair.


"Kim and I have been teaching the class at night together," said Smith. "What we've found is that so many of our students could not make it to class because of transportation problems or they could not afford gas ... or they had childcare difficulties. Since classes were only offered at certain times of day, it did not meet their needs."


"I am a mother of six children with a baby on the way," said online student Jamie Wood, via e-mail. "Making time to sit in a classroom and find a sitter is next to impossible. With the online GED program I am able to study whenever it is convenient for me. While my children are at home playing or after I put them to bed, I choose my own schedule.


"I think this GED program is a blessing and I am excited about it," agreed fellow student Brienna Hill, also via e-mail. "I can do it from my own home and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to do this program. It is a very good idea and I know it will help me achieve my goal in getting my GED. So far it has helped me through the math and that is my weak point."


Although none of the online students have taken the GED test yet -- the first will take the test in January, the teachers said they seem to be getting a lot out of the program.


"They're going very quickly," said Walker. "They're getting through the program faster, so they can test sooner."


Students in the online GED program must be 17.5 years old and have access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. Each semester costs $75 (which can be paid in money orders or in social services payment vouchers) and includes technical support and access to classes in all five subjects. Students also receive $30 off the $125 GED testing fee.


For more information, call 760-244-1771.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.