February 26, 2012
LIMA — You name it and you can do it with technology available today at area colleges and universities. Today's technology allows for everything from interactive learning to keeping students safe, and much in between. And its uses are expected to just keep advancing.“In the last five years, students have come to expect it,” Bluffton University Technology Coordinator Ray Karcher said of technology. “Students have their own portable devices now.”Bluffton is in its first year of using MOODLE, a campuswide learning management system. When students log on, what they see is individualized based on the classes they take. That allows instructors to post notes, grades, quizzes and other information online. Students can build glossaries and databases and work easily on group activities. Education Professor Sarah Cecire initiates class discussions using MOODLE. This combats problems of limited class time forcing discussions to be cut short and just a small number of students actually participating.“A professor can post a question or topic and students can think about it and then compose a response and everybody participates, even the shy and quiet ones,” she said. The system allows Cecire and others to go paperless. Karcher said MOODLE allows instructors and teachers to use things like videos and animations. Students in one chemistry course can manipulate a molecule on the screen. Bluffton offers a few solely online classes and some blended courses, where students occasionally meet in person. MOODLE allows for what is called a “flip classroom,” Cecire said.“You put the lecture online and the homework is done in class where the teacher is there to help them if they get stuck,” she said.When Matthew Wells was in graduate school 10 years ago, instructors used projectors, and computers were limited in the classroom. Today, every University of Northwestern Ohio student taking his statistics class has a computer right there. Not only does Wells use a Smart Board, he uses its Notebook application. Instead of frantically copying notes, students pay more attention in class and find the notes online later if needed. It's a time saver for both Wells and his students. And he believes it makes for better students and better teachers.“It alleviates in the long run questions they have,” he said. “If they are busy writing down something and not hearing what you say in class, then you have to explain it later.”While the concepts he teaches haven't changed, Wells said technology has changed how teachers can develop concepts. Wells uses Microsoft Excel and other programs to run analysis in class. He has immediate access while teaching thanks to things like Google. “In my classroom, I have instant access to information I can use,” he said. “I can reference a picture or story. I do Google images a lot to bring up a quick picture.”Technology is allowing some OSU-Lima students to attend class alongside students in Columbus. Theater Professor Joe Brandesky had been teaching at the Columbus campus a preparatory class for a student trip to the Czech Republic. OSU-Lima students wanting to participate would drive to Columbus for class.“I decided that probably was not right,” he said. “I had a friend who worked with distance learning technology, and she and I brainstormed on how to do it.”Brandesky decided a blended approach would work best. He teaches the class from Columbus one day a week and from Lima another day. When he is not at one school, thanks to distance learning, his digital presence is. He's taught the class three times this way, with another scheduled next school year.“It also seemed like a good idea to get our students involved in what the people in Columbus have access to all the time,” Brandesky said. “It has been mutually beneficial. It reinforces the one university concept.”The class has gone well, Brandesky said. He is interested in doing additional distance learning classes this way and has talked to colleagues about trying it.Technology is giving Rhodes State College business students real e-commerce experience. Rhodes partners with the Institute of Virtual Enterprise, which gives students from around the world the chance to develop their own goods and services to sell among each other via the Internet. “I would compare it to e-commerce business,” said Les Finley, assistant professor and interim chairman of the management and marketing program. “The only thing missing is we don't have the products. But as far as the transaction, it is very close. The whole point is for them to get actual experience.”Students put together business plans, and via the Internet, present those plans to try to secure funding to start their business. Students video conference and interact with student companies around the world, including in Australia, Africa, Sweden and Iceland. Rhodes is the only school in Ohio to participate.“It definitely impacts globalization, with the accents and the different diversity the students become aware of,” Finley said. “It really opens up their eyes to globalization and using technology.”The program is funded by the National Science Foundation. Rhodes has been chosen to appear in a foundation documentary next fall. The reality-style documentary will follow student businesses. Rhodes is one of four film locations. The latest technology push at Ohio Northern University is about student safety. School officials urged students and staff to fully utilize the new emergency alert system. The system allows the school to send a notification of emergency situations on campus, as well as weather issues and school delays and cancellations. Alerts can come through emails or text messages.“It was a phone tree before with faculty and staff and residence hall people,” said Larry Lesick, vice president of admissions. “That can be cumbersome. This is much easier.”People can also sign up for alerts from area law enforcement. Schools can send all sorts of information this way, but ONU chooses to reserve it for security and weather alerts. Officials want to make sure that when students get an alert, they know it is important and check it. Some schools have systems with alarms, sirens and other security measures, Lesick said. Systems like this have become widespread since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.“A campus like ours is safer than most, but we also know that no matter where we are, we need to be prepared,” he said. “We have an obligation to our students to help them develop a mindset, so when they are finished here they have good safety habits.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.