Going the distance

Nov 9, 2007

Ceremonies at Kettering helped math lecturer Nancy Ernst launch a distance learning classroom on campus to provide a link to K-12 students in Genesee County and beyond.

Nancy Ernst Through the window it might look as if Nancy Ernst, lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Kettering University, had lost her mind and was teaching Calculus II to an empty classroom. In reality, she is utilizing the latest in distance learning technology to deliver lessons to 13 students from four different school districts, without them having to leave their home schools.

Ernst is teaching the pilot class in Kettering's new distance education classroom enabling the University to have a direct link to students and teachers in the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) and beyond.

The classroom was funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Citizens Banking Charitable Foundation Trust, Loeb Charitable Trust, and a Department of Education collaborative grant involving GISD and Kettering University.

Officials from the sponsoring organizations participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 8 in the new distance learning classroom, which is located on the fifth floor of Kettering's Campus Center.

"This project is part of Kettering President Stan Liberty's vision to collaborate with the K-12 education system in Flint and Genesee County, and collaborate with other higher education institutions in the area," said Robert Nichols, director of External Affairs at Kettering, of the distance learning classroom. "The opportunity to offer dual enrollment through distance learning was made possible because of the GenNET and FANET project in all the area high schools and the leadership of the Greater Flint Educational Consortium (GFEC)," he added.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony GenNET (Genesee Network for Education Telecommunications) and FANET (Genesee County's higher education network) allow GenNET-member school districts to have an interactive television classroom link, together with FANET interactive television classrooms, through a fiber optic cable network that links voice, video and data capabilities.

"All of this came to fruition within the last year," said Nichols. "Through the collaboration of the GFEC, the local higher education institutions: Baker College, Mott Community College, the University of Michigan-Flint and Kettering, met with the superintendents and principals of high schools within GISD's service area to ask what academic topics they needed help providing their students," he said. Nichols credits Robert Hahn, coordinator of K-12 projects office of the associate provost at UM-Flint, for being the driving force that kept the project moving forward and launching within 12 months.

Kettering Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Harris said he is pleased with the project for many reasons, including that this effort reinforces the vision of Kettering President Stan Liberty and others working to help Mid-Michigan succeed. “The President is seeking an enhanced connection between the University and this region. This will help Kettering tap into different populations of high school students, young adults, MBA learners and other new students,” Harris said, “and it allows other constituencies to access the current technologies that Kettering can provide to advance their causes.”

Dr. Bahram RoughaniDr. Bahram Roughani, professor and chair of Physics at Kettering, said the focus of Kettering’s distance learning efforts -- along with the dual enrollment program -- is to help middle school and high school teachers make math and science relevant to all students. Within the new Michigan curriculum, graduation requirements include four years each of science and mathematics. For many students, these subjects are abstract, Roughani said. Kettering faculty's specialized talents in applications of mathematics and science are ideal for assisting teachers to help students answer the question, "Why do I need to know this?"

In addition to making math and science relevant, other advantages to using distance education for dual enrollment includes: students are not on the road attending classes at the colleges and universities and can participate in their extra-curricular activities; both teachers and students save time and the cost of transportation by remaining at their school sites; students receive quality instruction and K-12 teachers benefit from professional collaboration with their higher education counterparts. Students also get a jump start on earning college credits and school districts can provide advanced courses without hiring additional teachers.

Teaching in four places at once While the pilot class is still underway at Kettering, there has already been a growing interest among K-12 educators in partnering with the university through distance education technology. "Educators from Grand Rapids and Big Rapids, Michigan, have contacted me about working with us to build enthusiasm among their students for math, science and engineering programs," Roughani said.

"My hope is that by expanding our outreach and K-12 education programs through our new distance learning capability, within the next few years we will experience the need to build a second room to accommodate all programs," he said. "We would like to offer a broad selection of courses that would enable high school students to plan ahead for their college careers," he added.

In addition to Kettering's Calculus II class, as part of the GenNET/FANET project this fall, Mott Community College is offering courses in Arabic and College Algebra; Baker College is offering a course in Human Relations and Psychology; and UM-Flint is offering courses in Introduction to Ethics and Anthropology.

For more information on the distance education program at Kettering University, contact Robert Nichols at 810-762-9828 or via email at bnichols@kettering.edu

Kettering University
Founded in 1919, Kettering University is the home of the country's most modern co-op education program. It is highly ranked in publications including "America's Best Colleges" and "Best Midwestern Colleges." For more on Kettering University, visit www.kettering.edu

Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD)
As a premier regional educational service agency, Genesee ISD provides leadership that links learners to public schools, the community, private sector and public agencies in order to improve education and enhance lifelong learning for all citizens.

Citizens Republic Bancorp
Citizens Republic Bancorp is a diversified financial services company providing a wide range of commercial, consumer, mortgage banking, trust and financial planning services to a broad client base. Citizens Republic Bancorp serves communities in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana as Citizens Bank and in Iowa as F&M Bank, with 238 offices and 268 ATMs. Citizens Republic Bancorp is the largest bank holding company headquartered in Michigan with roots dating back to 1871. Citizens Republic Bancorp is the 41st largest bank holding company headquartered in the United States. More information about Citizens Republic Bancorp is available at www.citizensbanking.com.

Written by Dawn Hibbard