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Technology Enhances Teaching-Learning Experience

Technology at home and in the classroom has been the norm since birth for today’s college students. Understanding the expectations for reliable and state-of-the-art technology resources, Olivet College has significantly enhanced its teaching-learning environment, student-athlete experience and social engagement experiences.

“In 2014, Olivet College established an Information and Technology Committee to review and make recommendations on technology-related issues. This includes ensuring the ubiquitous availability of technological resources, electronically available information and e-services on campus, as well as integration of technology into the curriculum,” said Suresh Acharya ’99, assistant vice president for technology. “The advancement of technology infrastructure on campus over the past five years has been tremendous.”

One example is the OWL Labs’ Meeting Owl, a mobile device used with video conferencing software like Google Hangouts and Skype. The Meeting Owl’s cameras provide 360-degree access to any meeting space, and the eight omnidirectional microphones provide extremely clear audio.

According to Lorraine Manier, director of the nursing program and assistant professor of nursing, the Meeting Owl has become essential for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program. Its mobility allows faculty to move from classroom to classroom.

“The Meeting Owl has enhanced the delivery of the nursing program by moving from a ‘talking head’ lecture to a robust classroom dialogue,” Manier said.

The Owl is especially beneficial for online students. Olivet College’s RN-BSN program, which is partnered with Kellogg Community College (KCC), uses a concurrent delivery model to accommodate adult learners’ family-work-life responsibilities. Every class is conducted as a traditional face-to-face class at KCC, but students may remotely attend the class with an internet connection or use the Meeting Owl to view the class at a time that fits with their schedules. This delivery model emerged from listening to student needs in the Battle Creek community — some wanted to attend classes in person, while others were looking for fully online programs, which are popular when it comes to RN-BSN.

“The best thing about the concurrent delivery model is that students may move within the modalities as the work-life-school schedule allows,” Manier said. “We captured a college experience that is individualized and comprehensive for students.”

Teaching-learning resources have also been significantly enhanced in academic locations through the renovation of all classrooms to ensure standardized technology throughout. In addition, the refreshment of hardware and software, replacement of desktop and laptop computers and upgrading computing infrastructure is an annual process.  “Making sure all of our students have access to the same level of technology resources, regardless of teaching-learning environment, major or instructor, is essential to student success,” Acharya said.

With the availability of new technology like the Meeting Owl and the strategic ongoing enhancement of teaching-learning resources, Olivet College is able to offer efficient and effective ways to learn. Acharya said, “For the everyday user, technology is often taken for granted — it’s just there to help get a job done. But, when paired with human interactions and integrated into the curriculum that meets the needs of today’s learners, technology will only serve to bolster the College’s mission of providing a relationship-based education.”

Chemistry Technology Takes a Giant Step Forward

The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer is a revolutionary piece of technology in the field of chemistry, and Olivet students are benefiting from the technology’s role in their educational experience. According to Chemistry Professor Susanne Lewis, Ph.D., chair of the Natural and Physical Sciences Department, the NMR is “an instrument the size of a small, cube chest-freezer that measures carbon, hydrogen and fluorine atoms in molecules.” Ten to 20 of Lewis’ students work with the spectrometer each year to more accurately characterize molecules, mirroring the kind of investigative laboratory work that they would be able to do at a large, tier-one research university.

“The NMR allows students to collect data on the experiments they run in the teaching lab rather than rely on the data provided with the lab or from literature,” Lewis said. “We are also able to conduct research with the students to identify products that either were previously unknown or to compare to a research article.”

When describing the impact of the NMR on her students, Lewis touts a summer research program that she was able to start using the new equipment. The project has promise of Lewis’ undergraduate students being credited with identifying a new compound within the next year.

Olivet takes pride in offering its students valuable internship and research opportunities, as promised in the Olivet College ADVANTAGE. Students are given the opportunity to go beyond studies in their major subjects and participate in authentic projects that reflect what is expected in work-related applications. Instead of just reading about them, the NMR allows students to discover scientific breakthroughs through their own studies, a hands-on experience that will prepare students for their future professions.

“As opposed to just giving students an NMR spectrum of a well-characterized molecule they made, the students are able to generate the NMR spectra themselves,” Blake Reed, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, said. “Even though the spectra they use to identify the molecules are virtually the same as what we find online, it is a spectrum of ‘their’ sample that they made, and it gives them a sense of accomplishment on top of the knowledge gained by learning to use the NMR.”

The NMR allows activities that replicate graduate research and readies students for the larger instruments regularly found at research universities, private labs and government agencies. For senior Taylor Elley, her experience with the NMR has already been useful in her post-graduate plans.

“Using the NMR has taught me techniques that may be used in my future career,” Elley said. “The NMR gives students the opportunity to learn new lab techniques and experience an advanced piece of equipment. I plan on going to medical school and becoming a pediatric surgeon. The NMR has helped me reach my goals by explaining the techniques and equipment used in my medical school interviews. The NMR may also be something I use in the future for any further research in medical school.”

With the efforts and tutelage of Lewis and Reed, along with the research boost from the NMR, Olivet chemistry students are well-prepared for their next steps.

New Technology Brings Music to Life

Technology plays a major role in the creative process of today’s aspiring musicians. Olivet College’s music lab provides students with a place to expand their musical knowledge and explore and innovate in new ways.

“The music lab is a computer lab for our music majors and minors to use for music theory, aural skills and private study,” Jeremy Duby, director of bands, said. “The lab consists of seven computer stations that have the latest version of Sibelius, a music notation software program. This program allows our students to compose and practice music that they may be working on in band, choir or private lessons. They can isolate parts and have it played back exactly as written, which especially helps in complex rhythm patterns.”

Duby is also able to record recitals and lessons that take place in the recital hall. “We’re able to provide a professional-grade recording to our students and small ensembles for feedback and portfolio records,” he said.

Gospel Choir Director La’Rae Trice uses the music lab for student study tables. She believes the music lab has made a positive impact on students’ educational experience.

“The College has tons of spaces for students to study, but the lab is exclusive to music students,” Trice said. “I find it motivates students to study when they see their fellow choir and band mates also in the lab studying and doing homework. They can help keep each other accountable.”

Professor of Music Tim Flynn, Ph.D., stresses the importance of the lab in creating a quality education for music majors.

“It’s the only place on campus that has music-specific software and capabilities,” he said. “This lab enables students to compose music easily as well as record music.”

Students are looking forward to innovative music recording technology that will soon be available.

“We have students that write original music and are interested in recording their demos,” Trice said. “By the end of this year, we hope to have in place the technology to help students create original music right here on campus.”

For senior instrumental performance major Hannah Haugsby, the music lab offers her the opportunity to express herself and prepare for her future.

“The resources in the music lab are unlike any other resources you can find on campus,” Haugsby said. “The software allows me to rewrite, transpose, rearrange and compose music. I plan on pursuing a master’s degree and doctoral degree in music theory, and the music lab has given me the background for my future studies. I’m very grateful the College has this equipment.”

Technology Drives Athletics Inside and Outside the Classroom

The Health and Human Performance (HHP) lab was expanded in 2017 to include the Keiser Power Rack, TENDO unit and Firstbeat, advanced technology found in exercise science labs and physical therapy offices. The equipment provides students with technical experiences that mirror a professional setting.

“Our students have the ability to gain practical knowledge and exposure to cutting-edge technology,” Nick Juday, chair of the Health and Human Performance Department and associate professor of health and human performance, said. “We have the ability to share more practical information than theoretical. When we have students that want to be researchers or coaches, they have a better grasp on equipment that’s out there. We try to get students acclimated to it earlier in the process, which makes them more prepared for further education.”

Austin Sadler ’19, an exercise science graduate now pursuing a Master of Education in sports coaching at Ohio State University, believes his experience in the lab prepared him for his graduate studies.

“The HHP lab gave me exposure to some of the booming technology in the strength and conditioning profession,” Sadler said. “By giving students the freedom to experiment with such devices, students are able to get a leg up in the field and adequately prepare themselves for the next chapter of their lives.”

Besides its dedication to preparing students for graduate school and their future professions, the College also devotes attention to the care of its student-athletes. Technology now allows coaches to easily contact new recruits and electronically track student-athlete health. For example, student-athletes now have online access to their medical records, and the sports medicine staff can use a digital concussion testing system to gather baseline and post-injury health information, a crucial part of student-athletes’ well-being.

Perhaps the most innovative technology is the SuperFan app, a platform that allows fans to check in to games, answer polls and interact with other fans.

“The SuperFan app is a great way for fans and students to be engaged during the games,” Athletic Director Ryan Shockey said. “I’m excited about the potential to engage fans in experiences, not just sitting and watching the game. My hope is that it will increase school pride and attendance at games.”

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