Northeast Wisconsin Technical College has undergone some major changes over the past several years. On-campus housing, a new Health Science wing, a new Student Welcome Center along with dozens of remodels and renovations to server northeast Wisconsin. The most recent improvement has come to the new College of Business and the Information Technology wing.
Brittiney Lesjack, a first-year student who had classes prior to the renovation states “I was excited to see the new IT wing, everything looked so modern and industrialized.” This was a common theme from students both old and new. She also loved the functionality of the classrooms as well as “study cubbies” she takes advantage of between classes to “relax, study or just hang out”.
The new facility design focuses on an open concept with complete visibility into most classrooms highlighting the technology found within. The communal area provides ample room for students to catch up on their homework between classes with enclosed rooms outfitted with furniture and computers as well as an open area with workstations and a variety of amenities including USB charging stations. Students also have access to the campuses second coffee shop allowing students to relax and interact with both faculty, advisors and fellow students.
When asked about some of the obstacles Brittiney faces as a single mother of 2 and returning adult learner is scheduling. “Finding classes during specific times is really difficult. I know they offer classes alternating day and night every alternating semester pushes my graduation back even further” Brittiney explains. Brittiney has taken advantage of the new technology NWTC has employed to better accommodate the returning adults juggling family, work schedule and life. Two of those technologies are a learning management solution called Blackboard Collaborate which functions as a virtual meeting/classroom where the student can attend in a virtual classroom and can respond with voice or chat through the lecture while viewing the material the instructor shares on his screen. Lesjack states “I’m very grateful for Blackboard Collaborate which is available in my Microsoft Server 1 class because it’s a way to alleviate the stresses of accommodating three different schedules”.
She also feels the other component of the virtual classroom, NetLabs, has “added flexibility and independence as a single parent. If I must miss class, I can keep pace without falling further behind”. NetLabs is a virtual classroom appliance used to provide the students with a lab environment which can contain a customized “mock” network environment consisting of servers, computers or routers. This allows the student to work in their school lab environment anywhere they have an Internet connection.
The technology driving the new facility includes a state-of-the-art data center on par with most major companies in the immediate area. This data center resides in the center of the wing as a focal point and features a self-contained 10 Rack Emerson Smart Aisle. Program students in 4th-semester courses are provided card swipe access to work on their server class machines in this environment. This simulates “real world” experience while working on semester-long, challenging projects.
This system currently powers a portion of our virtual classroom environment mentioned earlier which will be expanded this fall with the ability to offer most classes in multiple delivery modes to provide better flexibility for students such as Brittiney. The new addition includes a Cisco Unified Computing System powering a TinTri mass storage appliance operating on 2 Terabyte of memory. This type of technology is being adopted to provide more opportunities to more students while giving them the flexibility to work online from home or get the face to face interaction with their instructors and fellow classmates. This hybrid collaborative environment was designed with the student in mind. It also provides true flexible learning as a virtual lab can be “spun up” in a matter of seconds if a student wants to explore technologies outside the curriculum.
These innovations and learning space allows NWTC to provide an engaging and flexible learning environment that can not only service the traditional student coming from high school, but also accommodate the student coming from industry for professional development or that person looking for a better opportunity for themselves and their family like Brittiney. This technology can be leveraged to accommodate all schedules and provide each learner the opportunity to persist and complete their program in a timely manner rather than waiting for the next day or night course to be made available.