Blog - Category: Academics

How Michigan colleges and Google are Reinventing Classroom Learning

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.”

 

Michigan Colleges Alliance takes Second in Stryker Engineering Challenge.

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)

The Final Stretch: Tips to Finish your Winter Semester

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.

  1. 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.

2. Plan

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 Awards $32,500 as Part of Independent InnovatorsNetwork Scholarship

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

Hillsdale College Proud to Go Its Own Way

HillsdaleStatuesWinter

Quick: Name a college with statues of not only Abraham Lincoln but also Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Or one with free online courses that teach the U.S. Constitution? That refuses to accept federal funding.

It can only be one: Hillsdale College, the so-called “shining city on the hill” for political conservatives, who unabashedly revere the founding fathers and don’t apologize for a core curriculum that revolves around books by so-called Dead White Men.

Tucked away in central Michigan, the school is attracting attention yet again in the first few weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s administration. The New York Times and others are shining a light on the Michigan jewel in part because it underscores the debate within conservative intellectual circles about what to make of Trump.

Proudly different, Hillsdale attracts students from throughout the country because it provides world-class education at a bargain. Even though it eschews federal money — making students ineligible for Pell grants — 95 percent of its students received grants of more than $17,000 this year, dramatically lowering its advertised $35,000 cost of tuition, room and board.

The education is without parallel. Unlike other schools that seem ashamed of teaching liberal arts, Hillsdale embraces it. For two years, students study the classics, taking more than a dozen mandatory classes on topics from western heritage, American heritage, biology and chemistry.

The classes help students forge tight bonds with faculty and administrators. Heck, the New York Times noted the school president, Larry P. Arnn, “has been known to swoop down on hapless victims in the cafeteria and pose the core question of the Classics: “What is The Good?”

Is it for everyone? Perhaps not. But what makes Hillsdale awesome is that, in this day of trying to please everyone, it’s proudly unique and charts its own path.

That’s something of a specialty at Hillsdale College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Proudly small, their students don’t get lost in the crowd like those at big state schools. And unlike public universities, students actually graduate in four years, not only saving a year of tuition but also giving them an extra year of earnings in their careers.

They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Calvin College’s Big Idea: Build a Better Window, Save the World

CalvinWindows

Consider the humble window.

Pretty boring, huh? Only good for looking through and daydreaming, right?

Now consider life without them.

Not so boring anymore. Existence would be a lot more grueling — and expensive. Add in a looming global energy crisis, and suddenly research into better windows is more vital. That’s why what’s happening at Calvin College is so exciting.

The school is partnering with a Grand Rapids firm, Mackinac Technologies Inc., to bring to market a product that vastly improves energy efficiency. The polymer pane that bends is custom fit to existing windows, reducing building energy loss by as much as 60 percent.

“We are providing the testing and analysis to show that the coatings are effective at reducing the heat loss through windows,” Renard Tubergen, an associate professor of engineering at Calvin, told the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

He’s recruited students to participate in the research, along with Richard DeJong, an emeritus professor at Calvin.

The partnership isn’t unique at Calvin or Michigan’s 15 top independent colleges and universities. All are award-winning academic institutions. And all know there’s life outside the lecture hall.

Think big enough. Dream outlandishly. Who knows? You could change the world.

Aided by federal grants, the Calvin-Mackinac partnership could one day help do just that. Highly durable and transparent, the product they’re working on could save one quad of energy if fully implemented throughout the United States.

One quad is the equivalent of 8 billion gallons of gasoline. The United States used 95 quads all of last year. So theoretically, the product could help cut the nation’s energy usage by more than 1 percent — an enormous amount.

Suddenly, the humble window isn’t so humble anymore.

That’s the sort of bold, brash thinking that typifies Calvin and the rest of Michigan’s independent colleges and universities. Daring doers, their faculty encourage students to think differently and chart their own path.

With low class sizes and an encouraging network of alumni, the colleges have a sense of community that simply doesn’t exist at big state schools.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Alma College Reaches Peak Fun with Bagpipes & Nintendo

Pixels

Somewhere, in that rare, elusive air between nerd and cool is peak awesome. Call it alchemy or old-fashioned magic, but sometimes, mixing radically different mediums captures pop perfection.

It happened with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop Tarts. And it happened again at the end of football season at Alma College, when — prepare yourselves — bagpipes met old-school Nintendo.

The Alma College Pipe Band and Winter Guard joined the school’s legendary Kiltie Marching Band for their annual indoor concert. This year’s concert featured themes from Super Mario Brothers, the Legend of Zelda and other 64-bit hits. It was retro wonderful. Princess Peach even made an appearance. And bagpipes. Lots of bagpipes.

A little background: Bagpipes are a big deal at Alma. They’re played when first-year students step on campus and walk through a gauntlet of faculty members at Welcoming Convocation. They’re played at sports games and college traditions like Burns Dinners and Tartan Day.

And Nintendo? Well, duh.

“I chose this music because it was always with me growing up” says band director David Zurbe. “The more video games I played, the more that I realized what impressive music it was. This music needs to be heard by everyone, and I am excited about how fantastic the musicians are doing with it.”

Making it even better: Students performed in full costume.

Offbeat selections aren’t usual for the band. In 2014, it performed a selection of Van Halen hits.

Is it wacky? Maybe a little. More importantly: Why not? It’s pretty darn amazing and a full heart container of fun.

That’s the way they roll at Alma College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities, where taking chances, mixing stuff up and letting ideas take wing is a way of life.

Purposefully smaller, the colleges offer a vastly different experience than big public schools. Class sizes are small. Award-winning professors actually teach classes, get to know students and help them chart their own path to rewarding careers.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Aquinas College Tackles Apocalypse (and Antibiotics)

aquinas_college_biology

Close your eyes and picture it. An apocalypse brought on by commonplace infections. There is no antidote. Three-hundred million die.

It’s not “The Walking Dead.” It’s Planet Earth, year 2050, if nothing is done to prevent the spread of microbes immune from medication that once treated them. It’s a scenario known as “antimicrobial resistance” and it’s one of the planet’s biggest threats.

Fortunately, the students at Aquinas College are on the case. The school recently was selected to join the Small World Initiative, a venture launched by Yale University in 2012 that enlists worldwide students to ward off the threat.

The students join those at 109 colleges who will take part in hands-on training and search for leads to new antibiotics.

“Our biology faculty are excited to be a part of this innovative program which will give our students more opportunities to engage in authentic research,” said Jennifer Hess, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Aquinas College.

Starting in 2017, students in introductory biology will collect soil samples, isolate bacteria and test it against microorganisms. They’ll compare findings with students worldwide.

And who knows? They may just help stave off a catastrophe. If not, they’ll learn about the scientific method and likely become more interested in careers in science.

“Students are going to really get to see the scientific process in action,” Hess told MLive.

“We think by students taking ownership of this research it will help them stay more engaged in the scientific field.”

Marrying the best of academic traditions with hands-on learning — while tackling big problems and trying to make the world better. That’s the cornerstone of the experience at Aquinas and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Unlike big state schools, classes are taught by award-winning faculty, not teaching assistants. Class sizes are small, allowing students to form lifelong bonds with award-winning expert as well as a nurturing network of alumni who help after graduation.

All the schools emphasize community over crowds and help students forge their own paths.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Kalamazoo College Student is a Star at Rocket Contests

rocketqueenkcollege

By day, Emma Kristal majors in psychology and biology at Kalamazoo College.

By night, she’s a Rocket Queen.

Her super-power: Making awesome, high-powered rockets that consistently blow away the competition at national and international competitions.

Kristal’s most recent triumph was winning individual and team gold medals with the USA World Space Modeling team in the Space Modeling Championships in Lviv, Ukraine. Her hobby has taken her to Serbia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Austria and other countries.

“Most of the competitions are in Eastern Europe because that’s where most of the competitors are from other than the U.K. and China,” said the junior from Royal Oak, Michigan.

“We’re the fiercest competitors on the field, but afterward, we can still sit down and play cards together. I’m making connections with people from all over the world. Sometimes I can scroll through my newsfeed (on Facebook) and not see a single thing in English.”

She holds 10 records. One of her rockets is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. And she’s recognized as one of the best in an event called the S2P Precision Fragile Payload, in which participants launch rockets 300 meters in 60 seconds without cracking an egg inside them.

Not too shabby for someone who attends a school that’s known as a liberal arts college and doesn’t have a rocketry program. Nor does Kristal plan to make a career out of rocketry.

That’s a testament to Kalamazoo College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities. All provide world-class educations. And all help students forge their own paths — even if it ventures into space.

“My dad is an emergency room doctor and when we asked his colleagues where I should attend college, they all said K. Honestly, we thought (Kalamazoo College) put something in the water to make them all rave about it,” she told the school.

The independents pride themselves on attracting different students. Ones unafraid of trying new things, venturing outside comfort zones and finding passions that don’t necessarily show up on transcripts.

Purposefully different than big state schools, the independents emphasize community over crowds. Classes are taught by award-winning faculty rather than TAs, allowing students to forge tight bonds with professors.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Michigan independents fastest way to four-year degree for community college students

collegestudents

Congratulations. You have an associate degree. All that hard work has paid off.

Now what?

If you’re like many, you’re ready for more after community college. After all, a four-year degree is the best ticket to prosperity, with pay averaging $400 per week more than those with two-year degrees, according to federal statistics. Within 10 years, the gap is closer to $25,000 per year.

And Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities are the fastest way to a four-year degree. That’s because they make it easier to transfer and most of their students actually graduate in four years rather than five or more at big state schools.

“Students often think transferring from community college is far more difficult than it really is,” one admissions officer said. “It’s even easier at Michigan independent colleges and universities.”

Time was, transferring was difficult, in large part because credits wouldn’t transfer, wasting time and money. Not anymore.

Not only do Michigan independent colleges and universities have admissions staffers specially trained to work with community college transfer students, recent state law has taken the guesswork — and subjectivity — out of the process.

The state Legislature passed laws in 2012 to make more community college core classes transferrable at four-year institutions statewide, a system known as the Michigan Transfer Agreement.

Transfer students to Michigan independents hit the ground running. On average, the percentage of students who graduate from independents in four years is nearly double that of public institutions, not only saving them a year of tuition but giving them an extra year of earnings in their careers.

And speaking of cost, the independents are among the most affordable in the Midwest. That’s because more than 93 percent of students receive financial aid, lowering advertised tuition and bringing actual costs on par with many public universities.

That means our education is not only priceless. It’s affordable too — one of many differences with traditional universities.

Unlike big state schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredible faculty who help students forge their own path. They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.