Changes to Blackhawk Technical College schedule designed to help students

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Nick Crow
August 4, 2015

JANESVILLE—When Janesville native John Wanda earned his degree in information security from Blackhawk Technical College, he wished scheduling his classes could have been easier.

"It would have been helpful to have the new scheduling in place," Wanda said. "I would have made better decisions about which classes in the Web software developer program to take and the order in which to take them, rather just taking whatever was offered at the time."

Now working on his second degree from BTC, the 58-year-old was happy to hear that the college is changing its scheduling protocol. Wanda is currently semi-retired and works as an information technology lab assistant at the college.

Beginning this fall, students will have access to a new schedule in which they will be able to see specific details of all programs further in advance.

Under the current system, students who want to explore a program can see a semester-by-semester breakdown of courses that are part of the curriculum and the sequence they are offered.

Wanda thinks that will help students juggle school and their busy lives.

"I think it's actually going to be a big help," he said. "Sometimes it's difficult to plan a schedule. Now, they have expanded it so you can see when the courses are scheduled for two semesters or more. It will be a big help, especially for older students with full-time jobs. It helps with their employer to be able to come up with a schedule that's agreeable for everyone."

Gary Kohn, marketing and communications manager at BTC, said the change is a major shift in scheduling that will help with recruitment and retention.

"What we are going to begin doing, starting this fall, is providing more advance information for our prospects and current students so they will be able to see not only the semester-by-semester courses, but also the times, locations and days they are available," Kohn said.

"Imagine you are the student I'm describing, but you work nights and have kids, so you can only go to class Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the day," he said. "In order for you to figure out if you can pursue this degree, you'd need to know what days you would be going to class, the times and locations.

"Having this information set in stone for a year or two could be the deciding factor on whether or not you enroll in the program."

Diane Nyhammer, vice president of learning at BTC, agrees that the new system will benefit students.

"Most people's commitments don't happen in chunks in time," Nyhammer said. "The new scheduling process will allow full-time, part-time and evening students to identify in sequence the classes they need in a specific program. They can lay out a full academic year, see the times courses are offered and how a week lays out with courses and locations."

Nyhammer said student feedback led to the change.

"Every few years, we conduct a student satisfaction survey," she said. "This has been one of the consistent challenges we've seen. So many part-time students are struggling so much at finding times that work for all of their classes for their program. When so many students are attending school part time, it's much more difficult to find a program that works."

Nyhammer said most students who attend BTC are part time and have work, family and life obligations.

"From surveys, we realized the old scheduling was not serving students' needs," Nyhammer said. "Now, in laying out the full academic year, we are hoping it provides a clear pathway to success."

In the future, BTC hopes to offer more hybrid, online-only and interactive television classrooms so that a student in Janesville could take a course in Milton without being on the Milton campus.

"It has been part of college's strategic plan," Nyhammer said. "The college has a strategic plan as a way to increase student retention, recruitment and success."

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