High school students in Mississippi could be spending more time on their home computer and less hours in the classroom as part of an experimental program planned for next fall.

The course, Research Tools for the 21st Century, is a project of the state Department of Education in conjunction with classroom teachers and Connected University, a computer-course division of Classroom Connect.

“I endorse this,” said Biloxi Schools Superintendent Larry Drawdy, a member of the state Commission on School Accreditation.”Students could go to school three hours a day and do much of their classwork this way. They might get more opportunity than in other ways.”

Students will register for the course and receive credit at their own local high school. They’ll have to pay a fee, about $60 to $100.

Students will be given a special password that allows them to pull lessons off a state web site. At designated times, the teacher in charge would be available on the computer to “chat” with students. Or, students could send eMail to be answered later.

Students will take tests at their own high schools under the watchful eye of a proctor to ensure they are not cheating, said Helen Soule, director of educational technology for the Mississippi Department of Education.

The first course will teach basic terminology, history, and development of information tools, including the internet itself.