Blog - Category: fun

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.”

 

Alma College Cheer Team Wins National Championship

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!

 

 

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.

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.

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.