NWTC’s 4×4 a vehicle for learning

November 11, 2013

From shwanoleader.com: “NWTC’s 4×4 a vehicle for learning” — Northeast Wisconsin Technical College has developed an innovative way to help recent high school graduates transition to college life, and it is doing it one class at a time.

The Shawano campus is providing students ages 18-23 a different way to take courses. Instead of the traditional juggling of several classes that meet two or three times a week over a four-month period, students can now take courses through the “4X4” system, where they go to one class for four days a week over a four-week period, spending three hours each day learning one general studies subject.

For Dylan Kroening and Hunter Galleske, two of 35 participants in this year’s 4X4 program, the fast pace of the program is a big plus.

Kroening, a graduate of Bonduel High School, said he’s able to better grasp the knowledge in the 4X4 setting than he could dealing with several different subjects simultaneously during the semester.

“I feel like, when you go through a 15-week course, you’re going to get to a point where you’re just sick of it. They don’t want to sit there, week in and week out, and do all this homework,” Kroening said. “It’s nice to do it over those four weeks and be done with it.”

Galleske, a Shawano Community High School graduate, said the faster, more intense pace helps students retain more of the subject matter and develop a closer academic relationship with instructors.

“You kind of bond with the teachers more,” Galleske said. “I feel like that they get a better understanding of us. We know what to prepare for.”

The 4X4 program was piloted locally and at other campuses last year, according to Jeannie Jafolla, manager for the Shawano campus. Besides Shawano, NWTC is utilizing 4X4 in Luxemburg, Niagara, Oconto Falls and Marinette.

“About two years, we heard feedback from the high school counselors that high school grads wanted to be with students their own age,” Jafolla said. “At the time, we had a large population of dislocated workers, so to be with their parents in the classroom, it caused uncomfortableness.”

The pilot program, which had eight participants locally, looked at how focusing on one subject for a shorter period of time impacted learning, according to Jodi Tetting, the local campus 4X4 coordinator.

There have been marked results. The median grade-point average of students participating in 4X4 was 3.2, compared with 2.8 for the typical student in general studies, according to Tetting.

“Probably the biggest transition for them is they’re making the decisions themselves,” Tetting said. “When they hit college, they’re adults. Their parents really aren’t privy to their information; they have to answer questions themselves.”

While the grades are important, Jafolla said the program also focuses on soft skills — showing up to class, being on time and getting along with other people. She noted that local businesses have commented they struggle acquiring younger workers with those abilities.

“Some of these students didn’t even like each other in high school, and now they’re best friends because they have to be together for nine months in college,” Jafolla said, adding that the group in the pilot program still gets together from time to time.

Jen Johnson, a SCHS graduate, took part in last year’s pilot and found the format to be simpler than what she dealt with in high school.

“I took one class (at a time), and it was a done deal,” Johnson said. “It didn’t even feel really hard at all. You go in, you have fun and you learn something. I had trouble in high school, so I liked working on one class.”

The program seems to work better on smaller campuses, Jafolla said. NWTC piloted 4X4 on its main campus in Green Bay first and found it did not work as well there, prompting officials to look at tailoring it for regional learning centers.

“The idea was they would go to school for a year here and then transfer to a four-year university,” Jafolla said. “After a year, about half of them transferred, which is fine. They can either transfer or continue on with their two-year degree here.”

The 4X4 classes generally take place in the morning, which gives students the afternoon and evening to go to a job and/or engage in social activities, Jafolla said. She noted that the students who participate in 4X4 save about $10,000 in tuition, lodging and book fees by getting some of their general studies courses out of the way at NWTC the first year as opposed to enrolling at a four-year school.

Fancy Vele, who graduated from Gresham Community School in May, loves the program and hopes that more students will take advantage of it after high school.

“All the staff and the teachers are really helpful. They know all of our names, and it makes me feel really good that they take the time to say hello to you,” Vele said. “It’s a small facility here, which is really helpful. You’re not wandering around looking for your class and asking a bunch of people.”

Elizabeth Bartz, a psychology instructor for NWTC, said the 4X4 format allows teachers to spend more time on a subject than if the class met once or twice a week.

“We’re seeing each other for four days out of the week, so if something is going on, we can gauge them a little better,” Bartz said. “For four weeks, you’re getting pretty close.”



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