Sarah Tuttle only seems to be a normal college student.

She spends her mornings taking notes from a Utah Valley State College professor who teaches a course in Humanities. She asks questions, listens intently and responds when called upon, like any other college student.Yet, Tuttle isn't an ordinary college student. Despite having earned 22 college credits at the end of the current semester, she has never stepped inside a classroom at UVSC and will graduate from high school with the rest of her Spanish Fork classmates in May.

Tuttle is one of a handful of students involved in the Nebo School District Distance Learning program, a program designed to allow high school students a chance to obtain college credit without leaving the walls of the high school.

"I think it's good to have the program here," Tuttle said. "It gives you a feel of what college is going to be like."

The Distance Learning program incorporates a system of video cameras, television monitors, microphones and fiberoptic wire to allow extensive teacher/student interaction despite the distance that separates them. Students need only sign up for a course with a counselor, pay tuition and attend classes that start as early at 6:30 a.m.

Students at Spanish Fork High School are slowly recognizing the benefits. Forty-nine students are currently enrolled in the program, and next year's enrollment promises to be even higher, said Debbie Gardner, Distance Learning program coordinator.

"Students enjoy being a part of an on-campus class and the opportunity to take college courses right at their high school," Gardner said. She added that more than 90 students will enroll in Distance Learning classes next year.

Students currently enrolled say they are excited about the program yet wary of the increased work load.

"I don't even have to study in high school," Tuttle said. "Now I have to study or I don't do well."

It is in this respect that students enrolled in the program will have an edge on other college freshmen when classes begin in the fall, Gardner said.

"The thing that impresses me is that homework and tests are constantly being picked up and graded," Gardner said. "Kids that sign up for these classes are very serious about what they are doing."

Larry Kimball, director of secondary education, said in a recent school board meeting that the success of the Spanish Fork program has prompted him to seek to install systems in Springville and Payson high schools.

"We see this as an excellent opportunity for these kids to stay on campus and still get college credit," Kimball said.