From EAGLE to TALON: Expanding College Classrooms into High Schools Via Distance Learning Network
Concurrent Session 6
The first Title III grant Northland Pioneer College (NPC) implemented to improve its distance learning environment was the Equitable Access to Gainful Experiences (EAGLE). This 5 year project faced many challenges including personnel changes in IT, unforeseen regulatory obstacles, cost, training, and faculty frustration. Some of the solutions implemented in this project were additional time built into the schedule, alternatives in the planning, seeking alternative resources, and promoting faculty technology literacy. The second Title III grant, Technology to Advance Learning Outcomes at Northland (TALON), will likely see new challenges that call for a solution design as the implementation of the project expands the college’s distance learning environment to the high school level across an expansive territory.
The second Title III grant, known as Project TALON, emphasizes the pedagogical needs in technology while servicing a vast diverse population through delivery of college-level courses to remote high schools. NPC currently uses a multimedia-rich distance learning network to reach its nine locations across two counties that encompass an area of 21,158 square miles while serving about 8,000 students annually.
The EAGLE grant identified many challenges that included personnel changes, cost, lack of training, and faculty frustration. NPC identified these challenges and systematically approached them with a solution design in mind. Budget requests were filled for additional IT personnel, IT trainers and facilitators, and compensation for faculty mentors. NPC increased the speed of its Internet, replaced technological components, and implemented new software to bridge the video feed in the classroom which helped significantly with the infrastructure of the model classrooms. To combat faculty skepticism and frustration in this distance learning environment, NPC created a faculty-led Learning Technology Committee, implemented 4th Friday technology training sessions, offered Instructional Skills Workshops, had IS training sessions at division meetings, created on-demand training and consulting, and made online resources available to all faculty.
While EAGLE provided a model for interactive, connected learning environment, TALON aims to scale that model up to include high schools in the network.
The challenges of TALON will still consist of IT personnel demand, cost, training, and frustration as well as a whole new set of challenges. The project will expand NPC’s delivery method from the college to ten high schools initially and eventually consist of bridging fifteen to twenty schools. New challenges that NPC will face is politics between high school districts, Broadband Internet connection over a vast territory, equipment delivery and maintenance, scheduling conflicts between schools, instruction by NPC faculty, local school monitoring of classrooms, and training sessions.
Currently NPC is approaching these issues by coordinating with local high school administration and IT personnel. Initial on-site inspections are being conducted to address Broadband Internet and classroom preparation for installation of the multimedia equipment that NPC uses in the model classroom. NPC administration is looking at the current ten high school’s bell schedule and calendar to create a schedule that will work in this connection process. Courses are being suggested that will give the remote locations opportunities that they do not currently have. NPC faculty is being informed of possible new teaching duties that will potentially have them instruct high school students’ transferable college courses.
While EAGLE experienced challenges related to personnel, regulatory obstacles, cost, training and faculty buy-in, TALON will likely face the same. Lessons learned and best practices developed from EAGLE will help inform the implementation of TALON. However, expanding the network into high schools will likely involve new and potentially more complicated challenges associated with infrastructure, scheduling, politics, instructional design, and extended IT support and training.