This spring, MPICT conducted an exciting pilot project, funded by the National Science Foundation, which created an international ICT capstone course for students from four community colleges in the MPICT region and the Centre des Formations Industrielles (CFI) in Paris, France, which has a “Digital Sister City” relationship with San Francisco, CA, where MPICT’s office is located.
International collaboration is increasingly common in ICT workforce roles. This experience explored how we might better integrate international experiences into community college ICT education.
For this project, 24 American students were recruited from Santa Rosa Junior College, Ohlone College and City College of San Francisco in California and Truckee Meadows Community College in Nevada, and 18 French students were recruited from CFI in France.
The project was based on Cisco Networking Academy curriculum, because that is common around the world, and it provided a common background on which to build experiences. Students were required to be enrolled in or have completed CCNA4: Accessing the WAN.
Ohlone College offered the specially created course, taught by Michael McKeever from Santa Rosa JC and Danijela Bedic from Ohlone, which was designed as a real world scenario. Students were asked to assume they worked for previously separate wine companies in the U.S. and France, which had recently merged. It was their job to work together to integrate their different network systems into a functional new system. This kind of situation is now common in real world ICT operations.
Classes were delivered through CCCConfer, a California Community College version of the Elluminate (now Blackboard Collaborate) platform. That allowed everyone to interact in real time with teachers and each other to learn the scenario and relevant background. With the time difference, the course was delivered simultaneously at 8am Pacific Time and 5pm Paris time. Students who could not be online in the moment could later review recorded archives of the 8 sessions.
Students were grouped in 6 teams, each made up of 4 American students and 3 French students from the CFI. Teams then tasked to work together to analyze the situation and come up with viable solutions. They had to discover and manage time and cultural differences and find ways to work together remotely. Cisco Packet Tracer enhanced with its Multi-User capability was used for the network environment.
Thirteen of the American students were selected to travel to France to complete their project face-to-face with their French counterparts and present their solutions to Cisco executives and college professors. A Cisco hosted Telepresence session engaged U.S. students not able to travel to Paris.
CFI students alternate 2 weeks in the classroom and two weeks with ICT employers. Most gain full employment at the completion of their two-year program. American students visited four work sites: (1) the data center of Paris City Hall; (2) a switching center of France Telecom (Orange); (3) the IT center of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and (4) the sophisticated network infrastructure of the Société Générale, one of the oldest and largest European financial services companies.
Many of the success elements of this project are reproducible to enrich other ICT educational experiences: building relationships between programs at different schools anywhere, finding common backgrounds on which to build experiences, engaging students with real world scenarios, using effective collaboration tools, engaging business partners, integrating real cultural experiences and helping everyone understand the real world relevance.