The "classroom of the future" at Owens Community College is spreading across campus thanks to a recent $480,000 grant from the Ohio Board of Regents. The grant is one of the largest among 13 awards from the Regents made to two-year colleges.
Last fall, the College opened the Audio/Visual Classroom Center that features classrooms equipped with 61-inch television units each linked to a personal computer system that provides access to the Internet, software programs, international satellite broadcasts, distance learning, laser discs, CD-ROM and videotapes.
The grant from the Regents will expand that communications network to 17 classrooms in five more campus buildings - Health Technologies Hall, College Hall, Engineering Technologies, Industrial Technologies and the new Math-Science Building.
"We are proud to be one of the few colleges or universities in Northwest Ohio with this extensive capability in distance education," said Dr. Paul V. Unger, Vice President of Academic Affairs. "This high-tech teaching environment offers students real-world applications of their subject matter every day in the classroom."
For instance, a morning foreign language class could watch a live German television show or the evening news in Japan. Health technology students can visit the Internet and World Wide Web sites for access to large medical databases. Automotive and diesel technology students can view dedicated satellite channels between dealerships and manufacturers for ordering parts and accessing the latest service bulletins. There also are opportunities for Owens students to hear lectures from eminent scholars speaking on college campuses across the country.
"There's really a wealth of material available through many different mediums," said Dr. Mike Roetter, Director of Institutional Research at Owens, and author of the grant application.
This grant is one of the largest ever received by Owens Community College, Roetter said. Along with Roetter, Tom Sink, dean of the Library; Bill Schmoekel, director of computer services; and Nancy Stolla, director of distance learning, also served on the grant application committee.
Owens Community College is responding to the Regents' call for greater use of information technology to serve more students, easier access to higher education and greater flexibility in the time and location of learning to improve the quality of instructional delivery.
Additionally, the technology grant will be used to expand the distance learning program throughout the College's campus. Distance learning simulates a live classroom experience using a two-way, full-color interactive video system relayed over a telecommunications network. Distance learning classes now are conducted between the two campuses, as well as between each campus and a number of area businesses and the Toledo Fire Department. Distance learning allows students to take Owens courses without having to travel to either campus - or leave their workplace.
Distance learning currently serves Owens students in two rooms on the Toledo-area and Findlay campuses. With the new grant money, mobile distance learning units will be purchased to move into different classrooms and laboratories, providing greater flexibility and offering access to more students.
Bill Deffenbaugh, executive director of the Center for Development and Training at the College, said this expansion of distance learning also will have far-reaching uses for the Center in workforce development and on-site job training.The mobile distance learning units can be shipped around the country to the various plant locations of the business and industry that the College serves.
"For instance, if we are offering specialized training to an industry in Toledo that has 23 plants around the country, we can pack up the unit in a traveling case and ship it by air to another plant location. After they use it, they'll ship it to yet another plant for training and on and on," Deffenbaugh explained.
"These mobile distance learning units will assure a company that all of their employees will receive the same, high-quality training from Owens Community College, instead of using different providers around the country," he said.