Q&A: Madison Area Technical College
This Specialty College Strengthened Its Online Offerings to Support a Diverse Set of Learners
Madison Area Technical College is known for their real-world, smart approach to learning – offering students innovative, high-tech career programs and college transfer opportunities. Since the College’s humble trade school beginnings in 1912, Madison College has reflected the world around it.
CourseArc had the opportunity to chat with Rafael Perez, a science instructor at Madison Area Technical College, to see how Madison College has grown since its founding and how the school strives to meet learners where they are.
Tell us about Madison Area Technical College.
Rafael Perez, science professor at Madison Area Technical College
Madison Area Technical College is a two-year public community college located in Madison, Wisconsin. It serves over 30,000 students. The College offers more than 180 programs in 11 areas of study including: Architecture and Engineering; Arts, Design and Humanities; Business; Construction, Manufacturing and Maintenance; Culinary, Hospitality and Fitness; Education and Social Sciences; Health Sciences; Information Technology; Law, Protective and Human Services; Science, Math and Natural Resources; and Transportation.
Madison College offers a Liberal Arts Transfer Program where students can earn an associate’s degree after completing the credit requirements. Most students in the program transfer to the University of Wisconsin system.
A priority of Madison College is to fully support our students and provide an accessible and inclusive learning environment. The Disability Resources Office provides accommodations and support to over 1,000 students.
We serve a large number of international students. The Center for International Education at Madison College helps students from over 60 countries to enroll in courses at the College and provides support during the application process and adaptation to campus life. Students come from different learning environments and have diverse learning styles.
In addition, Madison College provides diverse programs for all stages of a learner’s life. For example:
- High school students are offered the chance to earn College credits in their high school classroom, enrolling in college-level degree courses at the College and/or earning a certificate degree.
- Current high school students have the opportunity to complete a set of courses that align with the college’s STEM program.
- Individuals who dropped out of high school have the opportunity to enroll in independent coursework to complete their diploma.
- Other students can choose to complete an apprenticeship program in business and industry.
- Returning adults, many displaced from their current jobs, find a path to success in retraining programs offered by the college.
Madison Area Technical College is the leader in workforce training in Madison. What makes your programs more effective and different from others?
Madison Area Technical College focuses on providing quality and unique learning experiences for its students. Students who graduate from the College have a 93% job placement rate within six months. The College offers a top-quality support system for its students, starting from the day they enroll until graduation, and beyond. Classroom and laboratory rooms are equipped with the latest technology that fits the needs of the individual programs and students, making it a positive and inclusive experience. Faculty serving our students are well-qualified and have a wealth of knowledge and skills to train and prepare students for the workforce. Professional development opportunities and training are frequently offered to provide faculty with best teaching practices, technology training, and support for the well-being of faculty and staff.
Introduction page Dr. Chuck Benton of Madison Technical Area College’s Heart Anatomy and Anatomy of Vessels course
Madison College serves a number of different types of learners. Can you tell us what kinds of learners you serve and how each program may differ?
Madison College serves a diverse student population that includes high school students, international students, returning adult students, students with disabilities, transfer students, and veterans. Each student brings a unique perspective, knowledge, experience, and skillset into the classroom community.
As a science instructor, I served diverse types of learners over the years. Most students identified themselves as visual, auditory, and/or kinesthetic learners. In science courses, visual representations like pictures, diagrams, or graphs, are key to illustrate concepts or display data. Frequently, a lot of information is synthesized into a single image. Students love the opportunity to watch videos, animations, or interact with digital content. Some programs by their very nature appeal to hands-on learners…dental hygiene, radiography, automotive collision repair, construction manufacturing and maintenance, and agricultural equipment technology, to name a few.
How has your work changed since schools have shifted online due to the pandemic? How has your digital content helped during this crisis?
In our experience, the transition to online due to the pandemic was relatively smooth since we had previous experience and training teaching online. One of the challenges was to keep all students engaged in the online community, since some expressed that they would prefer face-to-face classes and were not sure if the online setting was the right fit for them. After Spring 2020, most courses in our College were offered in the online modality. This required the quick adaptation and/or modification of content that was originally used in the face-to-face modality. Having digital content that was accessible, engaging, and interactive was key to support students during this time. It was particularly important to provide content that could support all types of learners. Having multiple options to deliver the content proved to be highly effective. In addition, the pandemic exacerbated the gap between students of color and access to technology. One strategy that our College implemented quickly was to provide laptops and hot spots to all students that needed the technology. That was a vital component to ensure that students had access to the digital content and had the ability to communicate with their instructors.
How has CourseArc played a role in your ability to support students and educators?
Many faculty members in our college are always looking to improve and innovate their courses. They have expressed that CourseArc has provided the flexibility to create content that is engaging, interactive, and aligned with the learning outcomes of different courses. The ability to make the content accessible to all students is key for most faculty. As faculty members explore new tools to create or modify their content to better serve our students, the number of faculty members using CourseArc steadily increases and I foresee this trend to continue in the upcoming years.
CourseArc allows teams of educators to co-create lessons resulting in stronger lessons based on the collective intellect of all involved. CourseArc modules can be provided to new faculty members allowing them to begin instruction on solid ground.
Flashcard images from Dr. Chuck Benton of Madison Technical Area College’s Heart Anatomy and Anatomy of Vessels course.
How do you hope to continue to engage audiences with your digital resources?
Our hope is to continue to inspire and encourage faculty to create digital content for online and face-to-face classes throughout the year. For example, the content used in our online courses during the pandemic could potentially be made available to students in face-to-face courses as well. We believe this is an opportunity for faculty in the same departments to share and collaborate to build an extensive digital library that could impact a larger audience. We believe the pandemic has provided opportunities for academia to rethink how we deliver content to our students. The inherent nature of CourseArc design allows faculty to present visually appealing and engaging activities. The variety of building blocks available allows the opportunity for endless layout combinations.
What advice would you give to other organizations seeking to develop online content?
Slideshow of the Epilethial Tissue from Dr. Chuck Benton’s Heart Anatomy and Anatomy of Blood Vessels course.
Our advice is to provide professional development opportunities focused on teaching practices in the online environment, infusing equity and inclusion in the curriculum, offering opportunities to join professional organizations focused on online teaching, integrating the Universal Design for Learning, and evaluating tools and technology that will help faculty create and facilitate content that aligns with students’ needs.
We also suggest continuous vigilance in securing technology and tools that can be integrated into the Learning Management System that also provide support/assistance to faculty members.
CourseArc, a content authoring and management system (CAMS) was built to support organizations as they facilitate the collaborative creation of engaging and accessible online learning. Check out our resource site to see how we can help your team. Check back to our blog and social media feeds for additional resources and case studies on how our clients are using CourseArc to move their classrooms online.