Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Cincinnati State hailed for IT teaching

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Having pioneered an approach to teaching information technology, Cincinnati State Technical & Community College is drawing international attention.

        At a recent International Conference on Engineering Computer Education in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Cincinnatians heard they had achieved something unique:

        • Pulled together disparate IT classes — engineering and business technologies and humanities/sciences — into a new Information Technologies Division.

        • Consolidated student advising and IT course development.

        • Agreed to be linchpin in a new seamless path of secondary-to-baccalaureate IT education.

        • Reinvented Cincinnati State to respond rapidly to changing IT demands in the marketplace.

        “That's essential in the IT world,” Paul A. De Nu, dean of the new division, said in an interview after returning from Brazil. “We can respond quickly to student and employer needs.”

        Mr. De Nu; Connie J. Sketch, an assistant dean in IT; and Jan Donley, an assistant dean in business technology, used three hours to present their efforts to 300 colleagues gathered in Sao Paulo.

        Later, listeners came forward and in many languages, said, in effect:

        “Yes, we have the same problems with splintered offerings.”

        Ms. Sketch said Cincinnati State created a new home for IT “because we saw frustration in the college and frustration in the students. ... We saw the need.”

        She said similar courses in different divisions sometimes had different names and courses with similar names sometimes taught different things.

        No more.

        Now, IT course names and content are coordinated and advising is centralized.

        Getting to this point wasn't easy. Creating a new IT division from courses in engineering and business technologies and humanities/sciences was difficult, Ms. Donley said. “Education has a lot of traditions. It's very territorial.”

        Ms. Donley wanted IT consolidated in her business technology division where computer sciences have been taught. “That took a lot of negotiation and letting go. ... I wanted it here but I'm working very well with Paul and Connie.”

        However, linking IT to engineering technology promised greater funding, she speculated.

        Many of the 1,177 IT majors enrolled this term were there before, but the new approach is eliciting interest from an even larger number of prospects, spokesman Bruce Stoecklin said.

        Another focus in Sao Paulo was a three-year National Science Foundation grant to Cincinnati-area schools to create a model for IT education.

        The successful proposal — writ ten by Ms. Donley and two professors at the University of Cincinnati's College of Applied Science — calls for a “2+2+2” program that nurtures selected high school juniors and seniors, brings them to Cincinnati State for a two-year degree, and makes it possible to earn a BA in two more years at UC.

        “We're all scrambling but we've all come to the table which is a remarkable thing in itself,” said Pam Hunt, whose Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development is part of the experiment.

        Ms. Hunt, a curriculum and instruction supervisor, said it's vital that “the right people are there” when key people and technology change and curricula “require realignment.”

        Now in the second year of the NSF grant, Great Oaks students are studying business and electronics IT and will move into programming next year. Graduates can choose between Cincinnati State, another school or pleasing employers with industry-recognized Network+ or A+ CErtifications as network or service technicians.

        Another school involved in the NSF effort, Mariemont, spent last year preparing curricula and teachers; this year, it enrolled the first 17 students in those classes.


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