Teaching Students in New Ways
Northwest Iowa Community College is working to find new ways to educate and better serve students. Within the last year, the College has implemented some significant changes to classroom instruction and added equipment and facilities that will benefit students.
Classroom settings need to vary according to students’ needs. Gone are the days of every class being taught in sixteen week increments. NCC’s Arts and Science students are now able to enroll in a variety of courses during the regular semester that are as short as four weeks in length. The ability to offer classes that are different lengths enables students to begin courses at times other than the beginning of the traditional semester. Furthermore, NCC now offers Fast Track courses during college breaks. Formerly known as 7x7 courses, these classes now follow a hybrid model that requires four days of on-campus instruction followed by two weeks of online curriculum.
NCC was proud to partner with MOC-FV and Unity Christian school districts to create a “Career Academy” in Orange City. The Career Academy is a location away from NCC’s main campus where high school students can receive college level credit and get practical hands-on experience in courses related to the health or manufacturing fields. These fields were highlighted due to the high need of skilled workers, specifically in Northwest Iowa. Everything about the Career Academy, including classroom set up and course curriculum, was designed around STEM practices, such as tables set-up for group projects and brainstorming, instead of traditional desks. Seventy-one students from MOC-FV and Unity Christian attended the Career Academy in the Fall of 2013.
The Iowa-Advanced Manufacturing (I-AM) Grant was able to fund new equipment that has changed the way classes in the labs are taught in our Welding and Design Technology programs. Welding received a Fanuc/Lincoln Robotic Cell for advanced robotic welding training. The Design Technology program received the Dimension Stratasys SST 1200es 3D-Printer, a machine that actually creates out of plastic the piece the student is designing, and has the capability to inject a dissolvable support material in the middle of the prototype. A Dimension Objet 30 3D-Printer was also incorporated into classroom learning. This printer maintains a higher accuracy of the components it is producing and uses Polyjet Technology. A Makerbot 3D-Printer was also purchased and is utilized not only in the classroom but also as a recruiting tool. This machine is mobile, which allows it to be brought to local high schools to demonstrate the technology that is being used in the Design Technology field. Lastly, a Master3DGage Arm was acquired. This machine is used to reverse-engineer already existing parts, and it also inspects newly created pieces to make sure they are accurately measured and are perfectly created for industry standards. With the new equipment listed above, students are drawing the blueprints, printing a 3-D prototype and going through quality assurance inspections in their daily classwork. To date, students have been able to make everything from linked chains to a working electric guitar as class projects!
Service Learning in Teaching
Many things can be taught in a traditional classroom setting, but we all know that learning comes in many forms. Some of the most impactful learning students receive may not be found in a lab or a lecture setting, but can come of trying something new as a class project or with an extracurricular activity. This year, NCC has been busy with numerous new initiatives for student engagement, and many of these also had the added bonus of teaching students some very valuable life lessons.
Service Learning can be small and simple or large and complex, but the outcomes always result in bettering life for someone in need. NCC had a number of classes and student clubs that did projects to help others throughout this school year. For example, the Cost Accounting class did a class project in which they made “soup-in-a-jar” meals and donated them to Love INC to help the hungry in the area. The class not only assisted others in need, they also learned inventory control, process management and many other relevant accounting practices during this project. The Collision Repair and Refinishing program annually refurbishes a car and donates it through the Charitable Chariots program. This year, the program took on three different cars to donate to families in need. NCC’s Powerline and Heavy Equipment classes were available at a moment’s notice to assist those in need during the 2014 flood in Rock Valley. The Heavy Equipment students took their equipment and were available to help with whatever projects they could to divert water away from the community. The Powerline program students helped with removing furniture, sandbagging and anything else Rock Valley residents needed. Rock Valley Mayor, Kevin Van Otterloo, said, “NCC students and instructors did an incredible job. We definitely would have lost more homes if they hadn’t stepped up to the plate. It was unbelievable to see young people work like that. They never complained and dug in and did whatever we asked of them.” The Carpentry program and the Student Government Association (SGA) both took a group of students to work with Habitat for Humanity projects this spring. The Carpentry class worked with the Nashville, TN, Habitat for Humanity Chapter to fix houses damaged in flood waters, and the SGA went to Winterhaven, FL, to assist with new home construction sites. Whether the project was directly related to coursework, or was something over and above classroom learning and it took the student into areas they have never experienced before, all the students involved learned valuable lessons about giving back to the community and helping those in need.
The number of student activities has expanded this year! Opportunities like going to the Shakopee, MN, Renaissance Fair, educating students on the importance of practical money management with a series of Personal Finance Seminars, going to the Omaha Zoo, and even Grocery Bingo were just a handful of new experiences and activities that were introduced to students this year. Events like these are developed by SGA and rarely involve much cost to the student (most are free!). Trying new experiences like these are not only great résumé builders, they also enable students to meet new people.