As the open ground begins to shift at the former Vandercook Hall site, planning continues for programs moving to Ferris State University’s future Center for Virtual Learning. The state-funded facility is expected to be completed and operational by early 2023.
Ferris’ School of Education became a College of Arts, Sciences and Education department in 2020. However, offices and staff remain in Bishop Hall until the Center for Virtual Learning space is ready. Education Professor and Department Director Liza Ing said they are joining the College of Business’ School of Digital Media in the Center for Virtual Learning. Joining them are the Information Security and Intelligence program and the burgeoning Esports operation.
“We have always been a partner in the CVL discussions, though the Early Childhood Center will not be in that facility,” Ing said. “With interactive boards as part of remotely-sourced instruction, our School of Education students need to be exposed to and embrace technology as it applies to their instructional efforts now and hereafter.”
Ing said exciting collaborative opportunities with other Center for Virtual Learning programs include working with Digital Animation and Game Design specialists and the Information and Security Intelligence students and faculty.
“I expect the ‘challenge rooms’ for ISIN cyber-competitions and Esports’ competitive space might provide our students very useful exposure to unique methods to consider and present their instructional materials,” Ing said. “There is real potential to bring about a wide number of integrative methodologies, as we all gather and make use of the Center for Virtual Learning’s attributes. Our students are just beginning to understand that this new direction for our school will greatly benefit their learning and instructional efforts once they leave Ferris.”
Ing summed up her thoughts on the Center for Virtual Learning by acknowledging its potential as a recruitment tool for those adolescent and high school-age students considering careers in education.
“I think prospective students should be made aware of all the attributes that are planned for the Center for Virtual Learning so they can identify their opportunity to be exposed to many new tools and opportunities to master that technology,” Ing said. “The pandemic has demonstrated the need to be an adaptable professional in how we approach and teach our children. The Center for Virtual Learning should give them a great chance to excel in that effort.”
The concept of fostering technology in the university’s instructional process is key to the Extended and International Operations office, a facet of Academic Affairs and Office of the Provost. Coordinator of Instructional Technology Andrew Peterson said 80 percent of Ferris’ classes currently employ a digital component as part of the learning process.
“We have professors with decades of knowledge and experience, who are now learning themselves how to present that great content in a format that students can access wherever they are for their benefit,” Peterson said. “The facilities that the Center for Virtual Learning will provide, the technology, all of this will greatly enhance our ability to train instructors to pursue and achieve excellence in their teaching.”
Peterson said even the most traditional faculty members recognized the need to adjust when the COVID-19 pandemic required them to adapt course content and delivery method to continue interactions with students.
“It is exciting and daunting to help our great group of instructors become more capable and available to support student learning, whether it through use of Canvas or wholly virtual coursework,” Peterson said. “Extended and International Operations has been front and center in presenting the opportunity to remove physical barriers and make the world our classroom. This is an important and necessary process to allow more students to have flexibility and access, so they can continue their learning and complete their degrees.”
Finally, the prospects for collaboration with other programs in the Center are most encouraging for Peterson and the Extended and International Operations staff.
“The Esports facility will lend itself to ‘capture the flag’ activities that Information Security and Intelligence students compete in, along with the ‘game jams’ that Digital Animation and Game Design students enter,” Peterson said. “The ability to stream all digital competitions is just a natural fit, certainly a way to promote the center and university programs to an ever-widening and interested student audience.”