ILCC expands technological reach

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Iowa Lakes Community College will introduce new video classrooms to students when they return for the second summer semester next week. The rooms -- two on each of Iowa Lakes' five campuses -- feature 80-inch video screens and "always on" microphones which provide seamless communications with several locations at one time. The new system will allow the college to "split" the channels and offer a wider variety of classes for those wishing to pursue an evening AA degree. The video classroom system (below) featured small TVs with hand-operated microphones for each student and limited curriculum offerings. (Photos by Randy M. Cauthron)

New television system enhances educational options

Iowa Lakes Community College will unveil it's multi-campus television system - a more than $1.3 million investment - when students return to class for the second semester of the summer program at all of its campuses next week.

Members of the President's Cabinet at the college toured all five campuses Wednesday, getting their first look at the completed rooms, which will enhance the educational offerings by connecting the campuses, reducing the need for travel, and providing a wider variety of class opportunities to students in the region.

The new system will allow the college to split the channels at the college and offer a wider variety of classes for those wishing to pursue their education, whether they are in local high schools partnering with the college to offer college credit programs, attending the traditional college system, or taking evening classes.

Delaine Hiney, who oversees facilities management for all five campuses, explained that under the previous system, the college offered classes on channels 7 and 9 in two classrooms on each campus, essentially offering 10 total classes at the combined campus setting.

"Now we can split it so the classes they want are the classes they will get," Hiney said.

Tom Brotherton, executive dean at the Emmetsburg campus, explained, "Now we can pick which campuses get which classes based on demand. We can run four classes at once."

With two evening class sessions, and the other educational opportunities offered to non-traditional students at ILCC, Brotherton said it's possible for a student to get the AA degree in a two-year window taking night classes.

"It gives a lot more flexibility," he said.

A component of the new program, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, allows the college to partner with multiple high schools in the region, offering a broader assortment of college credit classes via video access for the schools to select from. Students at Clay Central-Everly, Ruthven-Ayrshire, Graettinger-Terril, Emmetsburg, Algona, Armstrong-Ringsted, Harris-Lake Park, North Central Kossuth and West Bend-Mallard will benefit from the nearly $500,000 grant which replaced obsolete equipment.

Because the system operates on an IP, Hiney also pointed out that the college will have the ability to connect with guest speakers and presenters live around the world.

The future of the program will eventually allow access to the curriculum on personal computers and iPads.

ILCC President Val Newhouse said it's the responsibility of the college to look at ways to improve educational opportunities for its students, maximizing the potential of the academic offerings to the student body in rural northwest Iowa.

New classrooms offer much larger high definition screens and two-way communication systems in the ceiling that won't require students to press buttons at their various locations in order to ask questions or respond to teacher instruction.

"It will offer a lot more interaction," Hiney said.

Coming from the standpoint of an educator, Brotherton added, "I like the absence of the big desk up front. It gives us very nice contact. The monitors are so huge, so hi-def, so bright, it will give me a better view of the students. The real nice thing is there is no push-button microphone."

The first classes on the new network include general education courses: Principles in Accounting, Composition 2 and Sociology.

Brotherton noted there is still time to sign up for summer classes.

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