Month: April 2011

Capstone Courses Roundtable with Walter Rotenberry

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As part of Wake Tech Community College’s professional development seminar, I attended the Capstone Course Roundtable presented by Walter Rotenberry. Walter Rotenberry is the lead for Wake Tech’s SGD department (simulation and video game development).

In the roundtable discussion, Rotenberry laid out his procedure for a capstone course, which I have vaguely outlined below:

  1. Establish the course as a capstone for your program. Inform students prior to entering and upon their first day in the class the details involved with the planned courses of action. Include all expectations, all contingencies, the level of quality required, and how their potential employment may be affected by their level of commitment. Remind them that they will get out of the course whatever they put into it.
  2. Set a final date for presentation. Plan that date and make sure that the course centers around the expectations required on that date.
  3. Focus on what is achievable. Students in Rotenberry’s class presented all their materials to the class in their first week, each choosing their best project to work with, fleshing it out over time to a perfect, finished project to present.
  4. Involve the community. Rotenberry contacted his closest contemporaries at surrounding colleges (in his case, NCSU and their graduate program in Game Development) and had a few joint sessions in which his team and their team could exchange ideas, discuss current projects, and discuss current topics, trends, and ideas in the industry. This was instrumental in achieving a program in which questions would be posed, answered, and attended to BEFORE presentation
  5. Pitch your programs to the best in the business. OK, we presented to CEOs and presidents of video game companies in our area, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Walter Rotenbery lined up the individuals and set their dates to attend, reminding them prior to the festivities, and following up with each one.
  6. Make an event of it. Students came prepared to discuss their work, networked with the individuals present and enjoyed snacks. After a short time had passed, each student presented their projects to the group, and in some cases individual computers were opened so that industry folk could try out each game on their own.
  7. Don’t let the music stop. Walter’s students passed out business cards and links to online portfolios and games. Students followed up with individuals, and several made appointments to meet with industry designers. Several employment opportunities came out of the presentations, and it has become a permanent addition to the SGD (simulation and game development) track.

In attending this training, I could clearly see how our Graphic Design IV or our Portfolio classes could easily become capstone courses. Portfolio could easily transition to involvement with local organizations such as AIGA here in Raleigh, NC or TIMA (triangle interactive Media Association). Graphic Design IV could easily ally with the Addy Awards or with GDUSA and other magazine contests. I look forward to discussing this with Damu Murray, Woody Hayes, and Marsha Mills.

The Great Course Migration: Preparing to Move Your BB 9.1 Course to Moodle 2.0

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The Great Course Migration: Preparing to Move Your BB 9.1 Course to Moodle 2.0 a professional development how-to presented by Jennifer Jones and Katherine Bennett

In this professional development course, I was able to get a glimpse of Moodle 2.0 as well as tips and ideas on organizing online course content in Blackboard for the migration to Moodle 2.0. Topics included an overview of how Moodle 2.0 works, saving and organizing files from Blackboard 9.1, moving quizzes and pools, and adapting assignments and activities for Moodle 2.0. This session was a demo only and did not actually include a hands-on experience for individuals.

Moodle 2.0 is one of the newest flavors in LMS (learning management systems) for educators. Technically being around long enough to go through an original draft, Moodle 2.0 offers some great features with a price tag set to move. Well, the price tag for this item is set at $0.00 which is a price tag most schools can cope with.

When attending this training, I was struck with 2 initial thoughts related to this product:

1) Our division has really worked hard for a long time to prepare our online materials (since 2006) and now it is the required norm for the college.

Our team in Computer Engineering Technology ( CET Division ) of Wake Technical Community College has endeavoured to place our online materials in blackboard using a weekly folder, with all materials for the week held within the folder itself- all learning objectives, all goals, all notes, all lectures, assignments and links to the discussion board, all videos, etc. This has been an effort we’ve put into place in an effort to make all of our courses containing a common thread so that whatever course you were in, one week would be all you needed. Also, if you were hit by a bus and unable to return to classes, another teacher could simply step into the breach and release your materials one week at a time.

In the new moodle system, this will be the required norm. It is nice to see that efforts within the CET division as well as the GRD (Advertising and Graphic design) and WEB (Web Design) departments were ahead of the curve on this one.


2) I am extremely suspicious of the $0 price tag.

No price at all sounds great- on the surface. But what lurks beneath? Our IT staff works very hard to troubleshoot the systems, and get frequent updates and patches from the customer service teams at blackboard. How then, will a free system like moodle meet our needs? Is there not a great opportunity for security breaches, problems which cannot be helped by a help network which is manned by volunteers, etc.?

If a system like this is free, how can they possibly be as responsive as a paid system with working customer service? How much will training cost to get each person in each department switched over to the moodle system? In the mean time, will we have to work partially in moodle and partially in blackboard? My suspicion here is that there MUST be a set of hidden costs- either in functionality, system use, customer support, number of users/licenses, etc. Hidden costs. That’s my thought, although I’m ready to make the switch if requested.

I will grind whatever grist the mill requires.

Disability Services Q & A

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Janet Killen lead this session with a wonderful Question and Answer theme. She began by giving the status of the disability services department at Wake Tech, and hand out some helpful information on contacting them if we had additional questions. Once we got underway, she explained how students could get help thorough disability servies, and the steps that were required to do so. I had some interesting experiences in teaching web design and graphic design since 2005, and was really interested in getting some answers.

I had one specific question concerning Disability Support Services and accommodating students with disabilities. The question revolved around a single individual, and how our buildings worked.

During one of my night classes off the ground floor, we had a fire drill that required everyone to exit the building by the stairs. I was familiar with the fire drill plan for the room (clearly labeled and laminated in every room), and instructed all students to take the exterior stairs and gather in the parking lot. One student in the class had had a stroke and only had lost the use of one half of his body as a result.

The student did not want to be left behind, and I was required to control the class out in the parking lot. The student requested that I help him down the exterior stairs. At the bottom, I realized that if the student had slipped or been hurt, I would very likely have been liable for the injury. A former law officer mentioned that a “Good Samaritan Law” would not allow me to be sued in the case of injury, but I was sceptical.

How could I avoid that situation in the future, and if I could not, what steps should I take?

Janet Killen was glad for the question, and thanked me for my honesty. She pointed out that within the building in question there was an “Area of Rescue Assistance” which was tucked away with room for individuals with wheelchairs or other conditions. In the event of a fire or other emergency, a firefighter or team of firefighters would be dispatched to carry individuals down those stairs to safety. In that building, the location was difficult to see, but it did indeed exist.

I was very pleased with her answer, and promised to find that location in that building, and in fact to be aware of that location in other buildings as well.

The Wake Tech Way: Benchmarking For Improvement

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The Wake Tech Way was a presentation given by Dr. Stephen Scott and Benita Clark. During the presentation, Dr. Scott made something very clear: Benchmarking is a core component of the Wake Tech Way.

In this session, I learned why this innovation is important to the future and growth of Wake Tech. Wake Tech strives to be number 1. On some lists, our programs and our school as a whole ranks in the top 150 colleges in the United States. We aim to be the number one community college in North Carolina, but we cannot achieve this by doing what we have always done.

It is only through improvement, understanding, and innovation that we can fully rise to the top. As such, Dr. Stephen Scott and Benita Clark discussed our newest facet of the Wake Tech program: Benchmarking.

Within each department, teachers are requested to find one area of their classes and behaviors that could use improvement. For this item, each member should contact one or more sources within the state to discuss the procedures and issues they are facing. Sources should be identified based upon personal knowledge, online lists, awards, test cases, or other sources of recognition. Information should be gathered about how that institution solves their problems, and make suggestions as to how we can improve our situation here. Teachers should further prepare plans on improvement within their classes.

Once written, these reports should be given to your supervisors, along with notes about how you plan to implement these changes in your classroom. Supervisors will watch your applied benchmarking choices and see if there might be room for improvement across multiple classes or multiple disciplines.

While this is completely voluntary, it is highly recommended. I believe that I will be undertaking this activity, and I’m interested in seeing how this will work out.

Oh, The Things I Wish I’d Known (Online Teaching)

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Have you ever thought about teaching an online class? This professional development course presented by Cathey Jordan was built to help teachers organize their online courses and class shells. This course was broken down into three distinct sections.

In the first section, special attention was given to discuss ways in which we could help keep students on the right track on day one and help keep them there. A great deal of this discussion was built upon setting the pace for student expectations early, and sticking to your guns. Many students have no experience with online classes, and feel they are running the show, or that you are available for discussion 24/7. They set out some strong expectations via lists that were easy for everyone to follow.

The second portion of the class discussed mistakes made in the first semester of the presenter’s experience and ways in which they were shared. This was an amusing section outlining errors that fit many people’s experiences. Everything was given in terms of problem, solution, lessons learned, and future adjustments to the program.

In the third portion of the class, a Q&A section was opened and we all discussed potential issues and solutions.Questions were very generalized and opened doors for many teachers, but there were also some real horror stories.

In all, I found this a fantastic session for new online teachers.