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Penn College’s North Campus Advances Internet-Based Learning

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s North Campus, near Wellsboro, has been designated a Northern Tier partner in a 17-county SkillsNet Internet-Based Training Project. The initiative is being coordinated by Penn College’s Technology Transfer Center. The primary goal of SkillsNet is to make Internet-based learning modules available to a diverse population. Eleven partner sites representing education, business and industry, and community organizations have teamed up to implement the project.

Individuals who will benefit from the project include those seeking to improve their math or reading abilities, obtain a GED, or upgrade skills for career mobility or individuals referred by business and industry to gain new skills. The program provides a wide range of services addressing participants’ personal, educational, and career goals as well as training to succeed in their current job.

“We’re eager to involve local business and industry, community organizations and the general public in taking advantage of this free service,” said Debra Sanders, coordinator of Academic and Student Affairs at Penn College’s North Campus. “We’ve already begun discussing ways we can expand this program through additional partnerships with the Potter County Educational Council, the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health and the VEDA Education for Industry Task Force in Sayre.”

The North Campus successfully introduced its SkillsNet “Learning Station” in July for the Secondary Summer School program. During this initial phase, the North Campus provided access to P.L.A.T.O., a computerized learning system made available through the Internet and the Pennsylvania Education Network. The Secondary Summer School program has been available at the North Campus for the past 10 years; the educational option is offered to Northern Tier students in grades seven through 12 who are in need of additional instruction in math or English.

“This was our first experience with P.L.A.T.O. and the kids loved it,” Sanders related. “All were familiar with computers and combining instructor lectures with hands-on computer application was extremely successful. We had 15 students in English and 13 in math. Every one of them completed the program, spending an average of 32 hours in the computer-based learning.”

The P.L.A.T.O. curriculum spans a broad range of subject areas targeted to specific competencies and skill levels encompassing over 6,000 hours of available instruction. P.L.A.T.O. identifies gaps in the learner’s skills and prescribes a path of instruction. Students work with a “learning coordinator” who orients them to the P.L.A.T.O. software, monitors their progress, and assists them with questions if they arise. Learning is self-paced and the student must demonstrate full comprehension of a learning activity before being able to move on to the next level. In addition to math and reading skills (basic to advanced), other training offered includes business writing, quality concepts, life and job skills, communication skills, and parenting skills.

Additional information on the SkillsNet project can be obtained by contacting Sanders at the North Campus at (717) 724-7703.

SkillsNet has received a $262,000 grant for its first year from the Commonwealth’s Link-to-Learn Infrastructure Investment Project, Gov. Tom Ridge’s three-year, $132 million initiative aimed at expanding the use of technology in the classroom.

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