From FDLReporter.com: “Moraine Park celebrates the holidays by giving back” — At Moraine Park Technical College, students have been busy finishing up final projects, cramming for end-of-semester exams and registering for spring classes.

Despite their active schedules, many student clubs and organizations are finding time to make spirits a little brighter for families in need this holiday season.

■At the Fond du Lac campus, the Straight and Gay Alliance club helped Broken Bread with more than 900 families who registered to receive food for Thanksgiving. They assisted with registration, handed out turkeys and helped carry food to people’s cars.

■The Student Veteran’s Association is running a Christmas in a Shoebox campaign by packaging and mailing donated items to deployed troops.

■Moraine Park’s Cosmetology, Corrections, Radiography and Clinical Lab Technician clubs are all adopting families through the Salvation Army or collecting nonperishable food items for donation to a local food pantry.

■Staff and units of the college are donating items to support Elijah’s Mantle/Ebony Vision. This local organization supports at-risk minority youth ages 6-18 in the Fond du Lac area that are in need of clothing and shoes this holiday season.

■On all three Moraine Park campuses, the IT club is holding a hat and mitten drive and Phi Theta Kappa honor society is sponsoring a family on each campus by holding a food and gift drive.

Those interested in donating items or learning more about the holiday service projects should visit morainepark.edu/calendar.

From Madison.com: “Morna Foy named president of state tech college system” — The Wisconsin Technical College System has named its next president from within, promoting longtime administrator Morna Foy to the top job overseeing the state’s 16 technical college districts.

Foy has been an administrator in the system since 1998. She’s been in her current job since 2005 as executive assistant and vice president of policy and government relations. She also worked in the Wisconsin legislative audit bureau from 1989 to 1998 as a program evaluation supervisor.

She becomes the 12th president — and first female president — in the system’s 100-year history. She will start in January.

“The board knows that Morna will hit the ground running as a strong leader who builds upon our past success,” said Mark Tyler, president of the technical college system board and chair of the presidential search committee, in a statement Thursday.

Tyler earlier had hinted the search would move quickly to replace outgoing president Dan Clancy, who announced his retirement in July.

Foy earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from UW-Madison and a master’s degree in public administration from Indiana University. She also is working on a doctorate in educational leadership and policy at UW-Madison.

From AppletonPostCrescent.com: “‘Light Up the Fox’ project aims to highlight Appleton history.” — A nonprofit organization plans to harness the same magical power that paper manufacturer H.J. Rogers captured with his hydroelectric plant in 1882 when it erects lighted sculptures along the Fox River.

“Light Up the Fox” is working to make the sparkling illuminated displays a reality at Atlas Mill, Vulcan Park and the Paper Discovery Center next year.

“We want to point out Appleton has this amazing early history of hydroelectric power with Hearthstone, the first electrically lit hotel and streetcar,” said Keith Powell, a volunteer with the new group.

The organization has attained $7,600 of its $11,000 fundraising goal. Plans call for the switch to flip in December 2013, said Barb Sauer, the group’s president.

The main focus of the displays is on history and the community, Sauer said. The group has not decided whether to use the lights during the holidays.

“We want to make it not only a light celebration, but shedding light on the Fox River and its heritage,” Sauer said. “We want to intersperse some celebrations throughout the whole year and are thinking about a night bike ride in the summer.”

The group will hold a kickoff event on New Year’s Eve. It will include a candle procession across the river, Sauer said.

Mike Cattelino, a volunteer with the group and associate dean of manufacturing and agriculture technologies at Fox Valley Technical College, is already working with students to design displays that will be synchronized to music. The lights display has drawn inspiration from the Green Bay Botanical Gardens in and Celebration of Lights at Menominee Park in Oshkosh.

“The technology involved is really an industrial-based control system, inputs and outputs, turning lights on and off, and making them dim and sparkle in ways they’re not programmed to do,” Cattelino said. “The electrical consumption is amazing low with high-efficiency, LED lights.”

The project got a boost this fall with a $5,000 matching donation from Faith Technologies, a Menasha-based electrical contractor. Matt Sabee, an Appleton service manager with Faith, led the company’s partnership with the nonprofit.

“We’d like to get students get involved right away when it comes to programming the lights to music, and making the controllers with relays,” Sabee said. “Then down the road we’ll roll in the historical educational with facts about the river, what’s it’s done to help our area, and boost manufacturing.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also donated $2,500 to the campaign this year. Sabee said the group is looking for more volunteers to help organize, market and create the displays. By waiting until after the holiday, the group hopes to save money on light supplies. Sauer said she’s eager to organize more volunteers and get programs planned for 2013.

“Every time I mention our plan to someone in the community there’s such an excited response. We’re seeing a lot of energy behind it already,” Sauer said. “It’s all about doing good for the community, having fun and celebrating the river.”

 

From WJFW.com: “Northcentral Technical College highlights student work” — When you were a kid, your parents probably put your best school work up on the fridge for everyone to see.

Adult students don’t get many chances to show off their best work – especially when that work is welding, mechanical design, or air conditioning service.

But Tuesday night, Northcentral Technical college hosted a student showcase so their technical and trades students could show the community what they do.

Associate dean Greg Cisewski said the showcase brings in prospective students and employers. “Right now, our industry in our greater Wausau area and the whole state is really pacing the nation in manufacturing,” he said. “All our industry partners are telling us they need more [employees], so we’re trying to work and educate new employees to go out and help meet the demands that they have.”

Two welding students were hired on the spot at last year’s showcase.

Ken Gillespie is a machine tools techniques student graduating in May.

He said this event and the school’s reputation will help in the job search.

“It’s a good way to get employers in to see what kind of work you’re capable of and see how you work and how you interact with other people,” Gillespie said. “There are jobs all over the country and all over the world as well. So I’m not worried about getting a job at all.”

NTC reports that last year, 92 percent of machine tools students had a job within six months of graduating.

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “MSTC starts Quick Start Learning program” — Mid-State Technical College is now offering people the opportunity to more easily fit coursework into their everyday schedules.

Beginning this fall, the college began offering Quick Start Learning classes. Rather than attending daytime classes, students now have the opportunity to attend in the evenings or online. Steve Smith, dean of the Stevens Point campus, said there are around 25 courses in such areas as project management, personal finance, computers, quality management, real estate, first aid, health care, hydraulics, alternative energy and welding.

Rather than having to sign up for classes in either the spring or the fall, Smith said that Quick Start Learning classes are offered regularly throughout the year. He added the courses are a good fit for people who want to increase their skills in their current career or are training for a new one.

“It’s another option for students who can’t fit into a traditional class schedule and still want the option to have a quality education,” Smith said. “Some people might think it might be an easier route, but I would suggest that students are still getting the same level of education and working just as hard.”

Sean Stilson oversees computer-based training courses, which make up a part of the learning program. Students interact with Stilson via email as they complete sections of a course and take tests. Stilson said he has about 37 students in the courses.

Stilson said the classes range from partial up to three credits, and are electives rather than courses required for a degree.

“It’s more to round out their degree, if they are looking to work in a specific area,” Stilson said. “The advantage of taking these classes is that people can spread the coursework out, or they can finish it in a couple of days or weeks.”

Jodi Belongia, 29, attends school at Mid-State’s Stevens Point campus and plans to graduate with a degree in business management in the fall of 2013. Following graduation, she plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Stout to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources.

She’s will take two computer-based training courses as electives — effective use of feedback for business and leading from the front line — during the upcoming winter break. She said she found out about the option of taking the computer courses when looking into fitting in her education around a full-time job at North Central Irrigation in Plainfield.

In fact, Belongia said the courses will allow her to avoid having to take courses next summer as she originally planned.

“I don’t mind having to have a class during the break because I don’t have to add any more classes during the spring, and I can work around my job,” Belongia said.

From starjournalnow.com: “Nicolet College’s early childhood education program sees enrollment surge” — Nicolet College’s early childhood education program has enjoyed an enrollment boom in recent years thanks, in part, to greater opportunity for students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a desire by child care providers to have a more highly skilled workforce.

That’s according to Diana Rickert, early childhood education instructor at Nicolet, who recently gave a presentation to the Nicolet College Board of Trustees about program developments.

“Students like what Nicolet has to offer,” Rickert said. “They see the benefits of attending Nicolet on a number of fronts and that’s what’s driving the enrollment increase.”

Currently, 52 students are in the program and that number is expected to nudge higher in coming weeks as new applicants work their way through the enrollment process in order to begin classes at the start of the spring semester in January.

One of the biggest drivers of this trend is the close partnership Nicolet has developed with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Thanks to a credit transfer agreement between the two institutions, students can complete roughly the first two years of their bachelor’s degree at Nicolet and then transfer to UW-Stevens Point to complete the degree.

“Students are realizing that they can save thousands of dollars by starting at Nicolet,” she said. “That’s because of Nicolet’s affordable tuition and because they can live at home, which means they don’t have to pay room and board. Combined, this results in a very significant cost savings.”

With bachelor’s degree in hand, graduates are then eligible to receive their Wisconsin teaching license and teach pre-kindergarten through third grade in a public school system.

An added advantage is the increased level of hands-on, practical experience students get in the associate degree program. Nicolet’s early childhood education program has an advisory committee made up of teaching professionals that offers guidance for program development.

“When they look at rèsumès to fill teaching positions, I’ve heard time and again that applicants who first earn an associate degree rise to the top of the pile,” Rickert said. “The added level of hands-on teaching experience they get with an associate degree on top of what they get with a bachelor’s degree is highly valued by school districts.”

Another factor contributing to the enrollment increase is the state of Wisconsin’s YoungStar program. Launched in 2011, YoungStar ranks licensed child care providers on a scale of one to five, with five being the best rating. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families then make the ratings public to help parents make child care decisions.

“More than a third of the possible points a program can earn are based upon the educational qualifications of the staff,” Rickert said. “Because of this, we are seeing more people who are currently working in child care enrolling in Nicolet classes. They are learning additional skills that ultimately benefit the children they teach and care for, and also help their employer receive a higher YoungStar rating.”

In recent years, Nicolet has also added a high degree of flexibility to the program, offering classes in the evening, on weekends, over an interactive television network, in an accelerated format, and on-site in the Lac du Flambeau tribal community.

“Everybody’s life situation is different,” Rickert explained. “By expanding the options students have to take classes, we’re making it easier for students to fit college into what are already busy lives.”

From insidehighered.com: “From Boardroom to Classroom” — Students at Yale University enrolled in elementary Bengali meet four days a week in a campus classroom, just like they would for any other course, but there is one big difference: their instructor is almost 300 miles away, in Ithaca, N.Y.

Yale, Cornell University, and Columbia University, backed by a two-year, $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, have launched a pilot program to conduct classes in uncommonly taught languages, including Indonesian, Yoruba, and Zulu, across the different campuses using videoconferencing technology. In doing so, they’re reviving not only language programs on the brink of extinction, but also a familiar concept in distance education. At a time when asynchronous instruction reaching hundreds of thousands of students is increasingly common, these universities are returning to a mode of distance learning geared toward small classes in which students all meet at the same time.

“It’s been a while since videoconferencing has been in education,” Dick Feldman, director of Cornell’s Language Resource Center.

The project evolved after a round of federal budget cuts in 2011 essentially gutted foreign language programs across the country, taking 47 percent of the budget for National Resource Centers, hubs of foreign language and cultural study. The language directors at the three universities, who knew each other through other collaborations, realized as the cuts began to hit their campuses that they had an opportunity to join forces and preserve some of the rarely taught languages.

“We each had a fair number of languages and it seemed like we also shared the stress of continuing to support our languages because of the federal government cutbacks to NRCs,” Feldman said. “It seemed like we were a good fit to share languages.”

At the core of the program is the idea that languages – and not just Spanish, French, and Latin – are important, but not financially feasible if only two or three students are interested. By joining forces, the three universities hope to leverage the languages they don’t all have, affording students more options, and to deepen existing programs by, for example, facilitating collaboration between instructors of the same language at different institutions.

“The ability to sustain languages with very low enrollments, though morally and intellectually desirable, was financially going to be brutal in the short term and dubious in the long term,” said Walter Cohen, Senior Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Cornell.  “We thought distance learning might be a way of sharing resources.”

Fundamental to the program is the use of videoconferencing – not pre-recorded lectures, the modus operandi for massive open online courses, and not webcam video, which is static and is designed to show just one person. Videoconferencing involves higher-quality cameras, larger lenses, and faster compression for sending the video signal, allowing for two-way interaction. It’s a concept often found in the boardroom and occasionally in the K-12 classroom, but still rarely in higher education.

Videoconferencing makes the experience similar to a face-to-face class. Students go to the same video-outfitted classroom every day and sit around a table, but on one wall, instead of a blackboard, there’s a screen showing the teacher and the students at the other campus. There are also computers at the back of the room equipped with cameras, so students can do pair work with their counterparts at the other university. The universities are also introducing tablets and touch-screens, which will allow the teacher to demonstrate scripts and share them with both classrooms, and they use document cameras so students can submit written work in real time.  In some classes, they’ve even come up with ways for students hundreds of miles apart to perform skits together, as they might in a regular language class.

Videoconferencing also works particularly well for small classes, Cohen said. These languages classes are capped at 14 or 15 students across all institutions, so the students and the instructor can interact and the class can be tailored to students’ needs.

“It’s not a good model for lecture courses,” Cohen said. “There, you run into the obvious problems, and you might as well videotape it.”

The technology, which includes large, flexible cameras and other hardware, requires an initial investment from the universities, some of which was subsidized by the Mellon grant. Cohen points out, though, that the cost of adding new technology to one or two classrooms is cheaper than hiring a professor or lecturer. And, he says, if the concept doesn’t prove viable for language instruction, it’s likely those classrooms will be useful for something else.

“It seems to me like [the language pilot] could be a practice run for other things,” Cohen said. “Even in large graduate programs, like English or history, individual sub-areas can be very poorly covered. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if graduate seminars could be taught in such a way that in relatively small fields, say Turkish history, if you have two people at one school and three at another, you could have a nice seminar.”

One college in Wisconsin has already seen videoconference seminars run successfully, and has recently upped the ante in the realm of two-way distance education.

Moraine Park Technical College’s three campuses are each about 30 miles apart, and in the early ’90s the college began looking for a way to offer classes at all three locations with instructors at one location. It settled on videoconferencing, but at the time the program was limited by technology, and administrators found the virtual classes had a lot of downtime because of user error – the system was too complicated for instructors to use effectively.

In fall 2010, though, the college introduced TelePresence, a technology from Cisco Systems that makes participants feel like they’re all seated at the same table. The idea has gained the most attention in corporate boardrooms.

“The people at the other location appear to be the same size, there’s no delay at all when they speak to you, and when somebody speaks from one side of the room their voice comes from that side of the room,” said Pete Rettler, a campus administrator for Moraine Park who also oversees distance education. The college worked with CDW-G to develop the strategy.

TelePresence and other videoconferencing techniques – the college only has one room on each campus set up for TelePresence, so it still uses more traditional videoconference technology in other classrooms – allow Moraine Park to offer courses that a single campus might not have demand for, similar to the language program at Cornell, Columbia, and Yale. The classes are also more satisfying to Moraine Park’s students than online classes might be, according to Rettler.

“The average age of a student at Moraine Park is 36 or 37, so a lot of those students don’t want to do online learning or even blended learning,” he said.  “There are a lot of students who still want that face-to-face experience, and it’s hard to argue that TelePresence isn’t face-to-face.”

The technology does not come cheap. Rettler said it cost about $150,000 to outfit one 14-seat classroom, and the college currently has two 14-seat rooms and one six-seat room set up for TelePresence. That $150,000 does not include costs for necessary infrastructure upgrades, either.

Still, Rettler sees it as a good investment and an efficient way to offer classes. He’s not sure how to quantify the return on investment, but said it does make for a good marketing tool, and he’s convinced it’s a good educational tool.

Moraine Park’s next step is to partner with four-year colleges to allow Moraine Park students who earn their associate degree to take classes toward a four-year degree from a campus near home. Several colleges already have the technology, Rettler said, so it’s a matter of coordinating credit and scheduling, which isn’t always easy.

Scheduling has been one of the main hiccups at Cornell, Columbia, and Yale, too, as each university has different vacations and different start times, so coordinating students on different campuses can be tough. The other challenge, Feldman said, is recruiting students, but he and his counterparts on the other campuses are discussing ways to reach out to those who might be interested.

As for long-term development, Feldman sees the program as a very specialized – and conservative – niche in the education technology landscape, and Cohen emphasizes that the model, if it works, would only work for seminar-style courses. Still, both believe the project has potential.

“If in foreign languages and other areas we find a way to provide better education at the undergraduate or graduate level, or for that matter faculty collaboration across campuses, than that seems like a great thing to me,” Cohen said.

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