This article first appeared in the August 21, 2014, Fennimore Times as part of its “Buzz About Town” series. It is reprinted here with permission from Fennimore Times Editor Rob Callahan.
Thanks to an outstanding faculty and staff, many good things are happening at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. This is the second in a series providing highlights from around the College.
Today’s spotlight shines on Southwest Tech’s Department of Teaching, Learning, and Academic Outreach led by Ms. Julie Pluemer, Supervisor. I am grateful for her help writing this article. Because of its long name and unwieldy acronym, I will refer to this unit as simply “the Department.”
At Southwest Tech, the Department might be the one unit with the most balls in the air. It is responsible for accomplishing numerous, different, and important tasks. To organize the work, it’s split into two sub-units, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Basic Education.
Basic Education provides adult basic education (ABE) and for youth, alternative high school (a.k.a., “118.15 contracts”). It includes three full-time and eleven part-time instructors offering programming on the Fennimore campus as well as at Outreach Centers in Boscobel, Darlington, Dodgeville, Platteville, Prairie du Chien, and Richland Center.
ABE serves adults, who for one reason or another, have not mastered the basic knowledge, skills, and aptitudes usually obtained in elementary and secondary education. ABE programs are free of charge to eligible students and aim to help students gain whatever basic reading, writing, mathematics, thinking, speaking, listening, or computer literacy skills they need and want. Last year the Department served about 310 ABE students.
Different ABE students have different learning goals. Some seek specific skills. Others prepare for a specific job. Some study toward earning a General Education Development (GED) credential or a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED). Last year, the Department helped 80 adults and youth earn a GED or HSED. Still other ABE students seek the preparation needed to enter and succeed in one of Southwest Tech’s career and technical education programs. All eligible students are welcome!
The Center for Teaching and Learning includes five faculty and staff members. They fulfill numerous responsibilities lumped into three categories. The CTL helps: (1) faculty and staff members develop professionally; (2) online students succeed; and (3) Southwest Tech engage with youth, high schools, and four-year universities in mutually beneficial ways. However, these catchall categories do little justice to what actually goes on.
The CTL helps lead the delivery of faculty and staff professional development opportunities. Last year, the Department organized three employee learning academies which offered 28 different sessions to about 200 faculty and staff participants. It also ran the College’s all-employee in-service programs, Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) instructor certification courses, and worked individually with 93 different employees to help them improve their individual skills.
The CTL oversees Southwest Tech’s Curriculum Projects, an internal grant program that allows instructors to apply for funds to support special curriculum development projects. Last year, a total of $30,000 was distributed among 36 projects involving 50 instructors.
The CTL leads Southwest Tech’s Worldwide Instructional Delivery System (WIDS) and Technical Skills Attainment (TSA) projects. Both are local components of WTCS-wide initiatives.
WIDS is a system designed and used by Wisconsin’s technical colleges for the purpose of standardizing, storing, and sharing curricula between and within colleges. The CTL helps instructors input and use WIDS information.
TSA is a program-level assessment initiative. In education, “assessment” refers to protocols designed to determine if students have actually acquired the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes they are supposed to learn. A “program-level” assessment is designed to determine if the courses and learning experiences within a particular diploma or degree program together achieve the desired learning outcomes of that program. The plan is to develop TSA protocols for all Southwest Tech programs.
Online learning is growing nationally and locally. Last year Southwest Tech offered 152 online courses serving 1550 students. This coming year the College will add three new entirely-online programs: Cancer Information Management; Health Information Management; and Supply Chain Management. So, the College’s number of online students will increase. Someone has to help instructors design and deliver as well as students succeed in online courses. It’s yet another job admirably done by the CTL.
Finally, the CTL manages Southwest Tech’s services to youth (e.g., Camp Tech Trek and Camp Extreme), partnerships with high schools (e.g., dual enrollment and Southwest Academy for 21st Century Excellence), as well as articulation agreements with four-year universities. Last year around 1500 high school students earned college credit from Southwest Tech through dual enrollment. The College now has articulation agreements with 29 different universities, giving graduates a variety of opportunities to complete a baccalaureate degree should they want to.
The Department of Teaching, Learning, and Academic Outreach is busy and productive. Much is going on all over campus at Southwest Tech. These are highlights from only one unit and do not include all of the cool stuff happening there! Learn more by visiting campus or the College’s web or social media sites.