When Alma College Professor Anthony Collamati sat down with all the students in his winter semester Media Theory and Culture class for the first time, the course was almost over.
You read that right.
Collamati was part of a revolutionary pilot program led by the Michigan Colleges Alliance that allowed students at Alma, Albion and Calvin colleges to take courses at member campuses using video conferencing technology from Google and interactive 55-inch “jamboards” to communicate.
That means Collamati had seven students in a classroom at Alma, six Albion undergraduates dialed in from their campus and three from Calvin attending from Grand Rapids.
The collaboration between the Michigan Colleges Alliance — a group of 14 of Michigan’s best private colleges and universities working together to provide opportunities for students in and outside of the classrooms — Google, which donated technology, and Steelcase, which outfitted learning environments for optimal communication, is the first-of-its-kind nationally.
The idea behind the interactive multi-campus class sharing is to maximize limited resources and provide students wider learning opportunities, said Michigan Colleges Alliance President Dr. Bob Bartlett.
“Nothing like this is happening in the country other than right here,” Bartlett said recently to students and instructors involved in the pilot. “It’s cutting edge. You’re a part of something brand new and it’s happening right here in Michigan and with Michigan Colleges Alliance.”
“We’re on to something that is going to have a national scope. I think that’s pretty exciting.”
Students agreed with Bartlett’s assessment.
Nichole Brown, an Albion junior studying math, was part of Collamati’s class. She registered for the section specifically to experience and learn the technology. Brown said any initial skepticism ended with the interactive nature and excitement of being part of something new.
“This is opening up opportunity for students to take classes we’ve never had access to and to be a part of something that’s never been done,” Nichole said. “Technology has such a wide range of applications in other fields that learning it now will benefit me later.”
The pilot was structured around three classes that are unique to the school or typically have lower student registrations. Bartlett said the courses, “Earth, Art and the Environment” offered through Albion, “Visual Sociology” through Calvin, and Collamati’s, were chosen to highlight that the program could tackle demanding topics.
Collamati described building a close connection to and between the students despite the distance between the campuses. He and the students had to lean-in and engage each other, developing seminar-style robust discussions. Each class session felt like an event, Collamati said.
“It supports the type of personalized teaching that we value and know is most valuable,” Collamati said.
Collamati reflected on the recent lunch at which he physically met two-thirds of his students, saying it didn’t feel like their first encounter.
“I knew their personalities just like I would if they had been sitting in front of me the entire semester,” he said.
The colleges are studying how to improve the experience while planning to expand the partnership in Fall 2018 to include seven classes. Roman Williams, a Calvin College sociology professor who taught one of the three pilot classes, said the evaluation will help all parties understand the program’s strengths and how it can develop.
“We have a hunch that there are two entirely different experiences when you’re in class and when you’re video-conferenced in,” he said. “What are those differences? How did the student react and how did the professor adapt? I know, for me, the technology forced me to reinvent some of the ways I taught and I think it challenged everyone for the better.”
The second edition of the collaboration will focus on more traditional math and science courses to explore how the technology works in those arenas.
Bartlett praised the institutions for being innovative.
“Our presidents are really visionary and wanted to create something different, something exciting for students,” he said. “I’m amazed at the degree of collaboration that I’ve seen in this process. The way work gets done now is what our students are experiencing in the classroom. Everyone is working together to lay the tracks for our future.”
Colleges offer open houses and campus tours all year long. But summer can be a great, low stress time to schedule a campus roadtrip. Nothing beats getting your feet on the ground to decide if a college is the right fit for you, so don’t wait to schedule one (or three). Absorb the tours but wander off the beaten path. Talk to students in the bookstore. Go to the campus coffee shop.
Is this a place you can picture yourself? So much of campus tours are about feel but it can be an overwhelming process. There’s a lot to absorb. Take lots of notes and snapshots to refresh your memory in a few months.
If you need a kick starter on things to ask, here are some questions to pose to yourself and your tour guide:
College and Campus
- Is the size and location of the campus appealing to you?
- Is the character of the campus appealing to you?
- Do the programs and majors offered fit your potential career interests?
- What type of orientation introduces a new student to campus life?
- Are there stimulating social and intellectual opportunities — lectures, debates, concerts? Are they well attended by faculty and students?
- Where do most students live — on or off campus?
- What percentage of students return the following year?
- What is the graduation rate after 4 years? 6 years?
Teaching and Advising
- What is the average class size?
- Who teaches first-year classes — professors or teaching assistants?
- How much exposure to top faculty will students have in their first two years?
- How extensively does the college rely on part-time or adjunct faculty?
- Are faculty members available to talk to first-year students about their academic disciplines and provide career guidance?
- What kind of email availability and office hours do professors offer?
- How many students are assigned to an academic advisor? Will the advisor be a professor?
- Is good teaching valued and used as a criterion for tenure and promotion?
- Does teaching include more than lecturing? Are students encouraged to work together, to discuss topics in class, to do self-directed independent projects?
- Can students work with a faculty member doing academic or scientific research while they are undergraduates?
- Do students participate in a senior seminar or design a senior project to demonstrate mastery of their major field of study?
- How is technology used in teaching and learning?
- Does the college have a program to identify students having academic or personal issues, and programs to help them?
- Are tutors, skill centers, writing assistance, counselors provided?
- What kind of tools, resources and training does the library provide?
- What kind of technology (Wi-Fi, laptops, computer labs, etc.) is available?
Beyond the Classroom
- What happens after class and on weekends?
- Do students take advantage of athletic, cultural, religious or other campus events?
- What kind of off-campus or study abroad programs does the college offer? What percentage of students participate?
- What internship or career exploration opportunities are available?
- What kinds of student organizations are on campus?
- How does the college demonstrate a commitment to diversity?
- What opportunities are there for community service and/or religious activities?
- How do students treat each other?
- What services does the career development office provide?
- What kind of careers do alumni have?
- Do alumni help identify opportunities for recent grads?
- What kinds of networking opportunities exist for alumni?
As you map your college roadtrip, include a few of Michigan’s top 14 private colleges and universities on your list. The colleges are purposefully smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often comparable in cost to Michigan’s public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates, outstanding faculty who help students forge their own paths, and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.
The Adrian College Club Baseball team has won the NCBA Division III championship in their first year of existence! Read more about their recent victory here. Go Bulldogs!
The Alma College Cheerleading team won its second consecutive National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) championship this April. Being at the top is a way of life for the Alma Scots cheerleaders. Alma’s cheer program is in its sixth year of existence and has finished second or better in each of its last five appearances at the NCA College Nationals. Way to go Scots!
Congratulations to the Hope College men’s hockey team! The Flying Dutchmen claimed their first ever National Championship on March 19th, making the team the American Collegiate Hockey Association D3 Champs!
Make a splash. Follow your own path. Find your future.
Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA) and its team of four engineering students finished second out of seven teams in the most recent Stryker Engineering Challenge. MCA competed against six teams from University of Notre Dame, Michigan Tech University, Western Michigan University, Miami University of Ohio, and Purdue University. Michigan Colleges Alliances beat out everyone, except for Michigan Tech University, who took first place in the competition.
Their team was a collective team of engineering students from two of their 14 schools, Andrews University and Calvin College. Levi Vande Kamp from Calvin College and Eric Anderson, Darrick Horton, and Justin Wiley from Andrews University made up the MCA team.
Gunnar Lovhoiden, a professor of engineering at Andrews University, supported the MCA team at the competition.
“I think our team worked really well together. Their design worked well and they represented MCA with honor. Second place—how about that,” says Lovhoiden.
This is the 8th year of the Stryker Engineering Challenge. The competition this year was held on March 22nd and 23rd.
Left to right: Darrick Horton (Andrews), Eric Anderson (Andrews), Justin Wiley (Andrews), Levi Vande Kamp (Calvin). (Photo by Gunnar Lovhoiden, professor of engineering)
After having a week off for Spring Break, experiencing a post Easter Sunday food coma, and with March Madness coming to an end, there’s not much left to distract you until the end of the semester. Which means you have only one choice: start studying for finals! <<Que the dramatic music “Dun-Dun-Duuuun!>> It’s always hard to get back into a routine. At the end of your spring semester, it can be especially hard to regain focus. HELLO SUMMER! Here are a few tips to ensure you finish the semester strong and can fully enjoy your summer.
- Make a List
Sounds simple, but make a list of assignments and goals that are both personal and academic, and use that list to motivate you.
Planning your path can help you accomplish your goals strategically and manage your time efficiently. Most importantly, you won’t forget anything.
3. Reward yourself with some breaks
Celebrate your accomplishments. Treating yourself with study breaks to avoid information overload will keep you sane and motivated to work towards your goals.
4. Talk to your teachers
Its okay if you’re having trouble understanding some of your coursework or need some . Tap in to the great resource you have in your teachers. Take the time to talk to them and ask for instruction and guidance. They are there to help you and will appreciate the effort on your end.
Follow these tips and we’re sure you’ll feel like this by the end of the semester:
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.
Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA), an organization made up of 14 independent colleges and universities across Michigan, has recently awarded $32,500 in scholarships to six recipients through its Independent InnovatorsNetwork. Recipients consisted of students from Hillsdale College, Aquinas College, Kalamazoo College, Spring Arbor University, and Albion College.
The Independent Innovators Network awards scholarships based on the strength of student applications outlining a business or social entrepreneurship concept. The program first received funding from the Council of Independent Colleges, ranking first among some 20 states competing for grant support in a national RFP.
The Independent Innovators Network, with national and statewide support, is quickly becoming a leading MCA initiative, positioning private, liberal arts students and graduates at the forefront of entrepreneurship and economic development in Michigan. Substantial funding for the program comes from The Jandernoa Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Armstrong International, and Enterprise.
This is the third round of the scholarship competition. Any student attending one of the 14 member colleges and universities of Michigan Colleges Alliance can apply. The most recent competition received 25 applicants across 11 schools, and a total of six winners were awarded a scholarship for their innovative ideas. Scholarships awarded ranged from $2,500 to $7,500. Scholarships through the Independent Innovative Network vary and are given based on multiple factors. Funding, the number of submissions and quality of submissions affect the number of recipients and the amounts given. A steering committee of business leaders ultimately decides how the scholarships are awarded.
Recipients of the award were not the only ones who received an award. Faculty who sponsored winning students also received a $500 stipend for helping mentor and encourage students.
Michigan Colleges Alliance represents 14 independent colleges and universities throughout Michigan, and works to develop collective initiatives that produce positive student outcomes.
As part of its We Are The Independent’s collective promotional campaign, MCA launched the Independent Innovators Network to encourage students at its 14 member colleges and universities to be independent and to follow their own path. The program gives students at smaller schools the unique opportunity to create a culture of entrepreneurship within Michigan higher education, and to stimulate a flow of new product and business ideas in Michigan. The program supports MCA’s overall goal to align the preparation of its graduates with the future skills, qualities, and experiences needed for Michigan’s continued economic progress and success.
“The Independent Innovators Scholarship competition is one of many ways MCA cultivates college educated talent for our state and nation,” says MCA President Dr. Robert Bartlett. “Collectively, our members represent Michigan’s “third largest university,” with more than 41,000 students. This program gives students in all majors the opportunity to think, collaborate, and explore their futures as entrepreneurs.”
All entries are reviewed by MCA board members, scholarship donors, and representatives from partner entrepreneurial organizations across the state. This year’s review panel included representatives from Steelcase, Ford Motor Company, PVS Chemicals, ASG Renaissance, as well as MCA faculty.
The program plans to host the next round of the scholarship competition in fall 2018