FARMINGTON — San Juan College is among five New Mexico colleges and universities that will participate in a pilot program that offers an online option for preparing for high school equivalency tests.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department selected San Juan College's adult education program to test the new program, which will help adults get ready for General Educational Development, or GED, tests. Doña Ana Community College in Las Cruces, the Roswell and Ruidoso campuses of Eastern New Mexico University and Albuquerque GED are also participating in the pilot program.

Students will complete 10 weeks of online classes geared toward preparing them for the GED test. They will meet in person at the beginning and end of the course, as well as once in the middle. Students will mostly work on their own to complete assignments. Before the start of the 10-week session, they must also attend an eight-hour orientation.

The new program benefits students who cannot make it to the classroom because of limited free time or transportation issues, said Jenny Lambert, San Juan College's interim director of the adult education and college prep.

"The state has evaluated that more options need to be offered than traditional classroom programs," Lambert said. "Most of our students struggle with work or school or day care or transportation."

The college's program is starting small with 50 slots. Statewide, 250 students are participating in the pilot program.

Lambert said the college is looking for students 16 and older who are self-motivated and disciplined to participate in the program. Students will be selected based on how they score on an assessment administered by the adult education staff.

"We're looking for students who at this point don't seem to need a lot of coaching," Lambert said.

Lambert said that because the program provides minimal contact with instructors, it may not be for everyone.

"Not every student is successful in this format. It looks easy, but it doesn't mean they are going to learn," Lambert said.

At Eastern New Mexico University at Roswell, the program is generating enough interest to expand already, said Natasha Mackey, distance learning coordinator for the campus.

The school is already seeking more computer software licenses to increase the capacity of the system when it rolls out in fall 2014.

"We're trying to get about 15,000 more licenses, so we can roll it out a little faster than anticipated," Mackey said. "We were originally looking at 5,000."

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To participate in the pilot program, students will be required to attend one new student orientation meeting on Dec. 2, Dec. 9 or Jan. 6 at San Juan College, 3539 E. 30th St., Suite 104. Meetings are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Valid state identification is required, and minors will need to bring a signed underage form.

For more information, contact the adult education program at San Juan College at 505-566-3270.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.