Des Moines Area Community College Utilizes Handhelds for On-the-Go Education

By Paustian, Anthony | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), November 2004 | Go to article overview

Des Moines Area Community College Utilizes Handhelds for On-the-Go Education


Paustian, Anthony, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


The Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Iowa is on the leading edge with wireless technology that is helping to replace rigid class schedules and enhance conventional teaching techniques. DMACC's high-tech Synerg.e Center at the college's West Campus (online at www.dmacc.edu/west) is applying mobile solutions that bring the classroom to the students when and where they want it, while adding new opportunities for interaction with instructors and peers.

Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and approved by the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa's Board of Regents, DMACC offers more than 75 career programs. The college's six campuses offer courses in traditional studies such as math and history, as well as courses in areas such as business information management, network management and telecommunications.

The ultramodern Synerg.e Center serves more than 1,000 students and is one of the first academic facilities in the United States to fully utilize wireless handheld technology for the delivery of course content. Handheld computing devices deliver many of the same benefits for education, business environments and everyday life such as:

* Anytime, anywhere access to data

* Ease of use

* Low cost

* Versatile use from a single device

* Organization to help prioritize schedules, tasks and data

Working Without Wires

At the West Campus and Synerg.e Center, students are as likely to have Hewlett-Packard iPAQ handhelds stuffed into their pockets as they are cell phones. HP iPAQ Pocket PCs (www.hp.com) are requirements for many students. They are used inside and outside of the classroom to access digital textbooks, review lecture notes, and conduct research without ever stepping into a library. In the classroom, instructors rely on electronic smart boards instead of blackboards, with students transmitting the information instantly to their handhelds.

All required course materials, syllabi and even campus news are delivered through the college's Web portal, which automatically formats the data to fit the iPAQ screens. In certain classes, students also use their iPAQs to test the network equipment and systems that they are learning to administer and repair.

And with 24/7 wireless access, classes are never really dismissed since course content and even exams are often available online. With e-mail and Web forums, class sessions often happen when and where the student wishes--providing flexibility for busy students. In addition to portability and convenience, the HP iPAQs serve to engage students in ways that traditional classrooms cannot. Their high-resolution LCD screens and pen interfaces provide an interactive experience that enhances the learning process.

DMACC students are continually finding new ways to use handhelds. For example, some students have purchased keyboard attachments that allow them to write more detailed notes and even full-length papers directly on their handhelds. Web surfing, downloading and listening to music, e-mailing and text messaging, and playing games in campus sponsored competitions are also frequent iPAQ activities that transform the handhelds into work and play tools.

While data can be maintained on the handhelds' interchangeable memory cards, students' notes and course materials are also saved to a storage area network (SAN)--eliminating concerns about irreplaceable information on lost, stolen or damaged devices. …

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Des Moines Area Community College Utilizes Handhelds for On-the-Go Education
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