Education

Welcome freshmen

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If you”re reporting to class at Georgia Gwinnett College this fall, expect high tech and plan to use a cell phone in class. It”s encouraged!

by Gordon Harrison

The round, signature John Portman building gleams like a mirrored space ship ready for take-off at Georgia Gwinnett College – The Campus of Tomorrow.

On the surface, the monolith offers only a glimpse of the fact that within its walls, there exists the most advanced learning methodology in the nation for higher education. Technology plays a big role – but not the only role in helping students succeed along the path of their college career.

The conversations are fascinating between the charter staff and faculty at GGC as they carve out academic programs and technology enhancements. The primary aim is increasing retention, progression and graduation, and the objective is to use technology to make learning more efficient and more enjoyable.

Lonnie Harvel, vice president for educational technology, says, "We know that today”s students are immersed in technology at home. What elements of their usage of this technology can we apply to learning in the classroom?"

Expectations for fall

What then, will the first freshman class experience this fall? First, in every classroom, the instructor will face the students rather than the blackboard. In fact, there are no chalk blackboards at GGC – all is digital. When an instructor makes notes for the class, it is on a computer screen projected onto a white board at the front of the room. When a frog is dissected, it can be done so under a magnifying screen, for all to see on the digital screen and on each desk monitor.

When class participation requires a variety of responses – out comes the GGC-provided cell phone – blip, blip, blip – the student survey is done via text message. Staff and faculty are attempting to integrate mobile phones right into campus life and use them for scheduling, safety alerts, course material and assessment.

GGC opens this fall with about 100 faculty members that have been hired over the past six months. These professors come from across the nation and all are excited about their involvement in this once-in-a-lifetime educational experience. An anticipated faculty-to-student ratio of about 15 to 1 will offer a unique educational experience for freshmen.

Classes and labs will be spread through four academic buildings. A highest-of-high-tech-auditorium will be a part of a new academic building to be completed this fall. A new recreational facility, currently under construction, will offer basketball, cross training and weight equipment. A variety of organizations and interest groups are being formed, offering an exceptional opportunity for the new students – the ability to start their own clubs.

Mentoring students

If a typical student across America is asked to name the most challenging aspect of their college career, invariably the issue of being left alone to struggle through courses and the college bureaucracy is at the top of their list.

At GGC, a mentoring program for students is aimed at identifying students who fall short on their grades or experience problems in the classroom. No student will face the trials of college work without significant involvement from faculty and administration.

In the near future

Next year, a $28.3 million library will be constructed, followed by a new student center and a parking deck. Sasaki Corporation of Boston has developed an exciting campus master plan that includes student housing and a host of other facilities designed for both commuters and residents.

GGC is in its formative stage, however it is clear that it will be a shining star in the University System of Georgia for generations. Georgia