C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2023 / Winter 2024)

OneRoom: A Partnership with RISE, HP/Poly, and Zoom

An Interview with Courtnie Mullen, OneRoom

By Dennis Peirce, West-Central independent Living Solutions (WILS)

Imagine being a student in a rural school district and wanting to take a dual credit course in chemistry or a class in astronomy but those classes are not available. Enter OneRoom, a partnership with Rural Illinois Shared Education (RISE), HP/Poly and Zoom which can provide synchronous virtual classrooms for instructors and students who may be many miles apart.

“Last year, two schools 40 miles apart shared a dual credit course in English," said Courtnie Mullen, Vice-President and Director of Classroom Development at OneRoom. "The students became friends. They would meet at Denny’s at the town in between for breakfast and attend each other’s homecoming.” According to the OneRoom website,

OneRoom brings students closer together by connecting them together with audio and video solutions from Poly. Based on practical understanding of instruction, our classroom solutions have been developed by educators for educators. Since 2016, we have been providing interactive and highly collaborative video conferencing solutions to encourage teacher and course sharing for schools. Our solutions are designed to resolve the problems with rurality, teacher shortages, and the inability of funding to keep pace with rising costs across the public education landscape that has put pressure on school districts to reduce and eliminate classes.”

Mullen started her career as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at a high school in rural Illinois. She got involved with RISE when her husband received a job transfer and teaching positions were not  available in November when they moved. “First, I taught a couple courses, then I assisted with managing courses," said Mullen. "The retirement of the tech coordinator gave me room to grow into my current position.” 

Mullen pointed out how the teacher shortage is affecting schools across the nation. One subject that has a lot of openings is Math. “There are so many applications for OneRoom," Mullen said. "Alternative schools could collaborate with a local school district for classroom instruction. Virtual field trips allow schools across the world enhance the content being taught.”

Mullen explained that the creator of RISE started it because he grew up in rural Illinois and felt like he was behind students from Chicago:

RISE [was created] so students could have dual credit or advanced classes such as classes with authors or colleges.  There’s so much opportunity when the technology makes a class so similar to an in-person class. A student who may stay in a rural town gets to experience a museum or a class from another country and it gets them to think more about what’s out there. Advanced students can get the content they need. Opening up access and the opportunity to work with schools across the state equalizes educational opportunity for teachers and students.” - Courtnie Mullen, Vice-President at RISE partner OneRoom.

Mullen also discussed how OneRoom and RISE are growing beyond the borders of Illinois. This spring, RISE will provide dual credit courses to the Finger Lakes region of New York. “RISE also works with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma," she said. "The classes focus on their language and are shared across the reservation.” Mullen added that RISE is also interested in partnering with organizations in Missouri and Kansas. “It’s cool to see the growth and everyone relying on each other," said OneRoom VP Courtnie Mullen. "Everyone has talents they bring to the table and it takes them working together to be successful. Educators do it to give students every possible opportunity.”

Courtnie Mullen will be the presenter for #C2CLive in February, so be sure to register with the C2C Community to learn more about how OneRoom and RISE may benefit your community.

About the Authors

Courtnie Mullen

Courtnie Mullen is the Vice President & Director of Classroom Development at OneRoom Inc. With her prior experience as a teacher, Courtnie leads the RISE [Rural Instruction & Shared Education] network. She specializes in working with districts in the RISE network to create and implement their own distance learning programs while partnering with other RISE districts to share educational resources. Courtnie currently resides in Illinois and enjoys spending time outside with her husband and daughter.

Dennis Peirce, M.S.

Dennis Peirce is an I.T. Systems Coordinator for West-Central Independent Living Solutions, a consumer driven, non-residential, 501(c)3 nonprofit resource center that serves people with disabilities and their families at all stages of life. He provides technical support and manages projects such as software research/implementation while also designing educational resources for WILS staff, consumers and attendants. Prior to this, he served 18 years at the University of Central Missouri as systems coordinator, field technician and help desk specialist. He earned his Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from UCM and has served as an adjunct instructor. Dennis currently serves on C2C’s Communications & Community committee, as co-editor of the C2C Digital Magazine and is a former chair of the SIDLIT Steering Committee. He has attended SIDLIT since 2015 and has been on the steering committee for the past four years.

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