Dylan Goss is going to be nine credits ahead when he starts classes in information technology (IT) programs at Chippewa Valley Technical College next fall. The Chippewa Falls High School senior already has been accepted into CVTC and plans to enroll in the IT-Network Specialist program.
“I eventually plan on getting a second degree from CVTC in software developer too,” Goss said.
That’s when the nine credits he’s earning at the IT Dual-Credit Academy at Chi-Hi will come in handy.
“It’s definitely going to save me some money and some time in classes I won’t have to take,” he added.
Dual credit is nothing new for CVTC and the many partner high schools in its 11-county district that have dual-credit agreements with the college. What’s different at Chi-Hi this year is a cluster of dual-credit classes in the information technology field created at the school, mirroring classes taught at CVTC and taught by a CVTC instructor right at the high school. These courses lead to an IT-User Support Technician Technical diploma.
This academy approach to dual credit is a first for CVTC. But it’s probably not the last, since it’s an arrangement that works well for the college, the high school and, most importantly, the students.
“This meets the Chippewa Falls School District’s goal of graduating all students prepared to succeed in post-secondary education and careers,” said Angela Stokes, the district’s career and technical education coordinator.
“We wanted to be more strategic about our dual- credit approach,” said Sara Scovil, career pathways coordinator at CVTC.
“IT is one of the skills gap areas in the Chippewa Valley,” Stokes said. “We wanted to make sure students have access to coursework in high school that would stimulate interest in IT careers and that they could leave high school with a certificate in the field recognized by business and industry.”
With that in mind, Stokes approached CVTC about forming a partnership that would help the school reach its goals for students.
“We looked at what students can earn credits in and what they can do in the future,” Scovil said.
Dual-credit partnerships between the technical college and area high schools can involve the creation of new classes, but often they involve upgrading existing high school classes with curriculum that will lead students to exhibit the core competencies expected from a college class.
Dual-credit classes usually are taught by high school faculty with credentials to teach college-level classes, working closely with a CVTC faculty member.
But Chi-Hi did not have the classes that could be upgraded to fit into CVTC programs, and the school lacked a qualified instructor. The IT Dual-Credit Academy proved to be the solution.
CVTC and Chi-Hi worked out a plan in which classes in Web 1–HTML & CSS, Programming Fundamentals, and Database 1 would be taught at Chi-Hi by experienced CVTC Instructor Julie McFadden. Each class is three credits, transcripted at both Chi-Hi to count toward high school graduation and at the tech school. The credits count at CVTC toward degrees in the IT-Mobile Developer and IT-Software Developer programs.
The credits also transfer to universities with whom CVTC has transfer agreements, saving students, parents and taxpayers money.
“We are trying to build career pathways,” Stokes said. “Part of that work includes creating experiences in which students have success in college coursework while still in high school, because research has shown that students with that experience are more likely to complete college.”
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“These classes are the same classes with the same competencies we are teaching at CVTC,” McFadden said. She added that the only difference is that the college classes are eight weeks long and taught with hybrid online/face-to-face instruction, while the Chi-Hi versions are 13 weeks long and entirely face-to-face.
McFadden vouched for the level of student success she’s seeing. “I have very bright students, and they are mastering things very quickly and are eager to learn more,” she said.
The dual-credit classes fit in well with the Chippewa Falls School District’s Mobile Integrated Learning Environment, Stokes said. Part of this program includes providing all students with Google Chromebooks and giving them the opportunity to take a high school course in which they provide maintenance for the computers. This allows students to get hands-on experience providing customer service to their peers and staff.
The CVTC classes help broaden students’ background knowledge, making them more effective in their work supporting and repairing the Chromebooks.
The students say they are getting a lot out of the class. For Goss the benefits are apparent, as he plans on using the credits at CVTC.
“I want to work as a system administrator, setting up and monitoring networks,” Goss said. “I’d like to get into a company like JAMF Software or IBM.”
But even students who don’t have any immediate plans to bring the credits to CVTC or to a university that will accept them as transfer credits are learning valuable skills.
“I am interested in learning more about computers because they’re such a big part of everyday life,” said Emma Burlingame, a Chi-Hi senior who plans to attend the University of Alabama on a full academic scholarship. She’s considering studying economics.
“I’m not sure if these classes will help with that, but I will have a better understanding of what goes into keeping technology running,” she said.
Junior Nadine Porzondek has a family reason to be interested in the class.
“My mom works at Cray, so she works with computers a lot,” Porzondek said. “I wanted to learn more about what she is working with.”
Porzondek is interested in an engineering field, perhaps software engineering or environmental engineering. Knowing how computers work is sure to help in such fields, she believes.
“I find it very fascinating and interesting that so much goes into making websites and that you can transfer information in so many different ways,” Porzondek said.
Stokes sees value in what the students are learning beyond understanding computers.
“When I talk to business and industry people, they say it’s not just the technical skills that are needed,” Stokes said. “It’s how you communicate with the customers and how you problem-solve. Julie’s classes are helping students build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.”
Thirteen Chi-Hi students are enrolled in the IT Dual-Credit Academy classes, which will continue throughout the school year. Scovil said CVTC is exploring creating academies at other high schools.
“IT is one of the skills gap areas in the Chippewa Valley. We wanted to make sure students have access to coursework in high school that would stimulate interest in IT careers and that they could leave high school with a certificate in the field recognized by business and industry.” Angela Stokes, Chi-Hi career and technical education coordinator