Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Organized to Succeed: Rio Salado College

Community College Times recently featured an online public community college that has succeeded in meeting the demand for an alternative to the traditional classroom, keeping it affordable for students and the state, and supporting students’ learning with innovative online services. Rio Salado College, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, is one of ten colleges in the Maricopa Community College System and serves 70,000 students each year. Yet, even with tens of thousands of students, Rio Salado’s operating costs are 48% less than what peer institutions nationwide are spending. How do they do it?

The organizational structure that helps Rio Salado keep costs down includes:
  • More than 60 certificate and degree programs
  • Just 22 residential faculty
  • More than 1,400 adjunct faculty
  • More than 6,000 course sections taught by adjuncts

The resident faculty have the responsibility of planning each course’s content, while the sections of the course are taught by adjunct faculty.

Rio Salado College president Chris Bustamante said, “Any way you look at it, online learning is an increasingly vital part of producing the number of qualified graduates needed to meet future workforce demands—when it is done correctly.” Part of what is helping Rio Salado “do it correctly” is a learning management system that was developed exclusively for the college, ensuring that it meets all of the college’s individual needs. Also, support services are customized for non-traditional students’ individual lifestyles. That is, a student can succeed no matter his or her situation:
  • Working adult
  • Active military student accessing coursework online
  • Student of adult basic education
  • Incarcerated adult
  • Early college student
  • Workforce training program student

The college offers resources such as round-the-clock instructional and technology help desks, tutoring, and virtual library services. Online classes are never cancelled and offer flexible start dates throughout the year.

These features and resources are making college a viable option for students who might otherwise never be able to work toward a degree.

Are you a student of an online college? What services does your college provide that help you succeed in your online college education?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Students, Get Creative in the APSCU Logo Design Contest

Students, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) is offering you an opportunity to get creative and earn some money for it. If you know you’re going to have some free time during this Thanksgiving weekend, plan to spend it designing a logo to represent the Association, and you could win $500 in APSCU’s logo design contest. The theme of the logo contest is “Working Proud.”

The APSCU logo design contest is held to give students an opportunity to receive professional recognition for their work. The winning logo will be used as the official symbol of the 2012 APSCU Convention & Exposition, being held June 20-22, 2012, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV (the logo does not need to reference the convention). The logo will be used throughout the Convention’s promotional campaign in printed pieces, onsite signage, official Convention website and social media outlets.

The grand prize of $500 will be awarded for the winning entry and $250 for second place.

Here are the logo contest rules according to APSCU’s website:
  • “Must be original art created by a student enrolled in an APSCU member college. Limit three submissions per campus. (We ask the college to put forth the three best entries from their students’ work only.)
  • The facts about the convention, as noted above, do not have to be incorporated into the artwork.
  • Submissions must be able to reproduce. Any text that may be included as part of the logo should be legible at a minimum of 125 pixels wide.
  • The convention committee will judge the submissions and make the final selections.
  • Artwork should be emailed in a JPEG format and should be saved with the author’s name and school (i.e. John Smith-ABC College). The winning logo will also need to be supplied to APSCU in an .eps format.
  • The originator of the winning artwork will be required to sign a release form to have the work published as the official convention logo.”

The contest entry deadline is November 30th at 5:00 PM EST. Check out APSCU’s website for further details about how to submit your entry.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Helping Students Make the Academic-Career Connection

Converge Magazine’s Tanya Roscorla recently reported on the career education strategies of schools in Oakland County, Michigan. As early as seventh grade, students in Oakland County are using a software program that helps them pinpoint their career interests and develop an education plan that will take them through high school and prepare them for the next steps after high school. They begin doing hands-on projects that help them understand the connection between what they’re learning in school and how it will apply in the workforce.

By the time students arrive in high school, they have a plan for the courses they’ll take. They participate in “ACT EXPLORE and PLAN” assessments that show them how they're doing academically to prepare for the career they want, and they learn the different skills required for different careers. Students may elect to participate in a career education cluster of courses where they participate in hands-on projects related to their field. For example:
  • Students in IT repair donated computers and give them to community members in need.
  • Students in marketing analyze Super Bowl advertisements, conduct a student survey, and hold a press conference to publicize results.
  • Students in engineering use Boeing’s simulation design software to design car and airplane parts.

According to Converge’s Roscorla, teachers at Oakland County schools use pre-assessments to determine what each student knows already and still needs to learn; then they tailor the curriculum to students’ needs and prepare students for industry certifications in their field.

Roscorla wrote, “Often, students don't have a focus when they graduate high school and move to postsecondary education. And now, skilled jobs require postsecondary training of some kind, whether it's training at a technical school, a two-year associate's degree in a technical field or industry certification.

That's why Oakland County starts students thinking about careers in seventh grade.”

Mary Kaye Aukee, director of career focused education in Oakland Schools, said, "You have to have credentials and you have to continue life-long learning, and we have to get students thinking in that direction. We also have to get students thinking that their academics are critically important to any of these careers."

What does your school do to help students connect academics to a career path?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Educators and Students, Participate in the Speak Up Survey

The 2011 Speak Up survey, conducted by the non-profit organization Project Tomorrow, is currently gathering responses from students, teachers, administrators, parents, and librarians at any and all school districts in the United States. The annual survey will be open for your responses until December 23, 2011.

The Speak Up survey is an opportunity for you and your students to share your experiences and perspectives about the use of technology in education. Last year, the survey gathered input from hundreds of thousands of responders. Each year, the findings are summarized and shared with national and state policy makers and with schools who participated.

Since 2003 the Speak Up survey has been conducted annually with questions about the use of technology for learning, 21st century skills and schools of the future, as well as emerging technologies (online learning, mobile devices and digital content), science instruction, and STEM career exploration.

Key questions in the 2010 Speak Up survey included:
  • Who is learning online?
  • What is propelling this new level of interest and excitement around online learning?
  • Can online learning really transform the learning process?
  • What is standing in the way of greater adoption of online learning in our nation’s schools?
  • What are the most effective motivators to increase the pool of teachers who want to teach online?

According to Education Week, the 2011 survey asks students, among other thing, if they think they better comprehend information through electronic or print text. Stories of students printing hard copies of material they read online led researchers to develop the question.

The results of the 2011 survey will be made available in spring 2012. To contribute to this large-scale project, visit the Speak Up website before December 23.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Preparing K-12 Students for STEM Careers

Community College Times’s Ellie Ashford reported this week on the efforts community colleges are putting into the development of STEM interests in K-12 students. The demand for more trained workers in STEM disciplines continues to grow and isn’t expected to slow down any time soon, if ever. By getting involved with students at a young age, community colleges may impact the number of students who later pursue a STEM degree or certificate, helping fill the need in the economy for STEM-trained workers.

Ashford reported, for example, that California’s lieutenant governor spoke about the significant discrepancy in the state’s number of unemployed people and the number of unfilled jobs. Basically, there are many jobs to be had but not enough qualified workers to fill those jobs. The lack of STEM education or training is hurting people who need work.

Chris Roe, CEO of the California STEM Learning Network, said, “It’s really hard for employers to find highly trained engineers and technology workers. That alignment between the education system and workforce needs is really critical. And the community college system is a key player to fill that gap—both as a pathway to more advanced degrees and to provide critical, specialized degrees and certifications.”

He continued, “A lot of students are precluded from going into these pathways because they don’t have the preparation. That is a huge barrier. It is absolutely essential that we support community colleges and help them develop linkages with K-12 schools, four-year colleges and employers.”

Community colleges in many states are implementing programs that bring K-12 students to the college to see first-hand what a STEM education may include; also, college faculty are visiting K-12 schools and taking hands-on presentations that get students involved. Further, colleges are creating education centers that give training and tools to K-12 teachers to help them better prepare their students for postsecondary STEM training.

The high schools that utilize TestOut’s LabSim IT training courses are giving students a huge advantage in STEM preparation. LabSim courses are developed around the objectives of industry certifications that evaluate a test-taker’s skills and knowledge in high-demand areas of technology. With the new TestOut Pro certifications, TestOut also offers students an achievable credential that proves not only what they learned through study, but also what they can do hands on.

What is your K-12 school doing to prepare students for STEM careers?