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Educating Georgian Community College Students in Engineering & Technical Subjects

A Proposal to EIF submitted by Iowa State University

Problem & Proposal Summary

This proposal responds to the technology gap facing higher education in the Republic of Georgia. The solution which Georgian Technical University (GTU) and Iowa State University (ISU) suggest in this proposal is to 1)create a CD library of electronic course materials that students in Georgia’s new community colleges and vocational education centers can use in their local campus computer center and/or play using a computer in an internet cafe, at work, or at home; 2)produce and disseminate lectures, seminars, on-the-job situations, and lab experiences to be used as “virtual” labs and “virtual” internship experiences; and 3)develop competencies so that Georgian teachers can add to this digital archive after the grant ends. We are asking EIF for $20,600 for these purposes to complement and extend the financial support and in-kind activities we are receiving from USAID, the Ministry of Education and Science, and the American higher education partners (see summary of funders in appendix materials).

Technical Information

Currently, electronic course materials are little used in GTU’s classrooms and none is available for students at higher education institutions outside of the capital, Tbilisi. A start-up grant secured from USAID in 2006 to create Georgia’s first community college is focused on collecting syllabi, training teachers in new pedagogical methods, and preparing curriculum materials for common 1st year courses, e.g., math, technical communication, etc. We also purchased one tablet PC to be used by GTU’s Teaching Center. Combined with Camtasia software, an inexpensive camera, and microphone for a cost of approximately $2500, this “mobile studio” captures all that a teacher is doing during a lecture, lab, or seminar, including equations or diagrams written on the tablet screen, exactly the same way that a blackboard or whiteboard is used in traditional engineering classes. Teachers also can write notes and highlight prepared slides – as in a powerpoint presentation – and the result recorded as shown on the screen for distribution in CD form to students.

Although the media-enabled classrooms and editing facilities are more complicated at ISU, this is essentially the system which ISU team member, Joe Monahan, uses to produce Internet distance education courses for ISU’s Engineering Distance Education. This innovative and low-cost approach facilitates sharing of modules and other course materials between the American and Georgian partners. For example, modules from an ISU safety or civil engineering course can be modified during the editing process, as Camtasia allows a second sound track to be laid down over what the professor said in the class. Thus, we can replace an English speaking instructor’s voice with the same content in Georgian or vice versa. Monahan, Mickelson, and Maney modeled the “mobile studio” concept, i.e., laptop linked to microphone and camera during a visit to Georgia they made in March.

This proposal to IEF will result in the creation of curriculum materials for 10 technical courses (see timetable in appendix materials). The work is separate from but complementary to a proposal we have sent to a NATO Science competition. NATO’s Networking Infrastructure Grant (NIG) competition will pay for equipment and for Internet upgrades but not for the work of teacher teams to design and develop course materials. And if the NATO proposal is funded, we can expand the “library” of curriculum materials by offering (and capturing) live Internet lectures, e.g., by an engineering professor at GTU and linking it to classes in the Gori college and at a vocational education center in Zugdidi. The NATO grant will allow us to set up virtual private networks (VPNs) which can seamlessly tunnel through the existing private ISP networks, and eventually, to use wireless technology to reach the more remote areas not currently hard-wired to the grid.