Grant enhancing classroom, online learning

Oct 24, 2017

Students and faculty at Ashland Community and Technical College returned from fall break with some new technology in place to help enhance learning in both online and physical classrooms.

The installation of three new workstations — two at the College Drive Campus and one at Technology Drive — as well as a faculty emporium on Technology Drive, was made possible through a five-year Title III grant.

The Title III grant has two major focuses: the design of active and collaborate classrooms and the design of quality online courses.

The $2.5 million grant — allocated $490,000 each year — began in October 2016. All objectives for the first year were met, said Sara Brown, ACTC’s eLearning Activities Coordinator/Learning Specialist, greenlighting ACTC’s next installment of funding for year 2.

“The point of these new workstations is it makes it easier and more conducive to have active and collaborative learning in the classroom,” Brown said.

The enhanced classrooms were outfitted with new tables and chairs that are mobile, student white boards that can be displayed on easels, new instructor computers and thread poles to bring more power sources into the classroom for students to charge laptops and other electronic devices. Each room is also getting a short throw projector.

“This turns any white board into an interactive white board,” Brown said. “It still does all the same things a regular projector would do, but you can annotate PowerPoint slides and you can save those changes. You can record your session. And it works as a regular white board.”

Over the lifetime of the grant, more classrooms will take on the new design.

“Selecting the workstations for the classrooms was based on the need to really update what we had for our students, making the classrooms an environment where we can mirror the skills students need in the 21st century and especially in the workplace,” Brown said.

The faculty emporium was installed to have a dedicated training area for faculty and allows them space to create materials for their classes, such as video and audio recordings. The faculty emporium includes a Whisper Room, a soundproof booth with recording equipment; a Lite Touch Pro; Learning Glass; Microsoft Surface Book laptops; and an interactive short throw projector.

In the area of online class design, Brown said faculty have been attending workshops and conferences to learn best practices.

“I spend a lot of my time helping faculty redesign their online courses so that they meet Quality Matters standards, which is the company that we contract with,” she said. “We’ve been having trainings to incorporate elements that are more engaging for the students.”

In September, 15 faculty members attended a two-day training workshop from a Learning Environment Architect who came from the University of Central Oklahoma. Additional trainings will be ongoing this fall to make sure students are always connected to their online classes.

During year 2 of the grant, ACTC will install its first e-learning support lab for students who need assistance with using Blackboard or creating various multimedia projects for their online classes. That is slated to open in the spring at the College Drive Campus. Year 3 will add the support lab at Technology Drive.