Westmoreland College dedicates new lab

ribbon-cutting-not-cutWestmoreland College held a ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate its new Instructional Design Lab which provides college faculty with the tools to create content engaging course content.

The lab is equipped with six smart podium computers that provide the tools for faculty to imbed video, PowerPoint presentations and other digital content into their online courses delivered in a web conferencing format. These online classes are delivered synchronously allowing instructors and students to interact in real time. Students can access the courses via any mobile device, including smartphones, tablets or computers.

“It’s the closest you can get to being in class without being in an actual classroom, “said Associate Professor John Shelapinsky who teaches Paralegal classes online.

This fall, 47% of Westmoreland students are taking at least one online class and their grade point averages are slightly higher than those enrolled solely in on-ground courses.

“One of our goals is to grow online programs and services to engage students where they are and that’s online, said Westmoreland President Tuesday Stanley. “The Instructional Design Lab will help us to do that.”

Funding for the creation of the Instructional Design Lab was provided by a gift from an anonymous donor.

“We are very grateful to the donor for the gift that enabled us to equip the lab and hire an instructional designer who assists faculty in transitioning their on-ground courses to an online format and developing engaging digital content,” said Stanley.

Funds from a $2.25 million Title III Strengthening Institutions Grant received from the U.S. Department of Education will allow the college to expand the Instructional Design Lab with additional equipment and professional development.

“The lab is the college’s first step in achieving its long-term goal of creating a Learning Commons as part of the Founders Hall renovation project, currently in the planning stage,” said Stanley.

Once completed, the instructional design lab will move to the Learning Commons which will also contain spaces for tutoring and academic support, mentoring and counseling services, career services and an IT help desk.

Westmoreland offers 11 associate degree, diploma and certificate programs that are available 100 percent online. Among those offerings is the Associate of Arts degree, which is transferrable to bachelor’s degree programs at four-year universities. Other programs available completely online are some of Westmoreland’s most popular majors such as business, accounting, criminal justice and psychology.

This fall, Westmoreland was ranked first in Pennsylvania for 2016 online colleges by OnlineColleges.com.

Photo: Delivering remarks at the dedication ceremony were Stanley; Tara Zirkel, dean, Distance Education and Education Centers; Dick Dickert, chairman, Westmoreland board of trustees; Philip McCalister, president, Educational Foundation board; Annette Boyer, director, Distance Education and Learning Resources; John Shelapinsky, associate professor of Paralegal, Business and Real Estate; Ted Kopas, Westmoreland County commissioner; and Chad Amond, president, Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce.