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 In my previous post [PT 1], I discussed how as part of Obama’s “ConnectEDucators” program, schools must do more to engage, prepare, and inspire college- and career-ready students, and our CTE programs must be better aligned to employer and postsecondary needs. 

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With increasingly tight education budgets in almost all states, cuts can cause students to miss out on the real-world exposure and access to skills training that things like field trips, internship programs and mentor relationships can provide. While partnerships with organizations and corporations do fill some of these gaps, investment in a videoconferencing infrastructure can enable schools to bring career exposure and relevancy to their students, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed. For example, through video, more than 1,700 students in Manitoba, Canada watched surgeons complete a reconstructive surgery on a torn ACL. That kind of experience can extend to any career field: students can watch professionals at work, engage with them and ask questions about what they do and how they do it, and gain virtual in-person exposure to any number of possible careers.

 

Beyond this broad view into the job world, an integrated video collaboration network can also give students the narrow skills training they desire. For example, if a student would like to go into automotive engineering, but the school does not have or cannot afford to offer the auto shop class, they aren’t out of luck. With a video link and a relationship with an auto repair school, that student has the opportunity to spend a class period each day connecting with a remote instructor to develop firsthand the skills of the trade. The same goes for any hands-on field. Why not give students this level of exposure and connect them to resources that will help them get a head start on their professional training?

 

Lastly, video conferencing plays a crucial role making it feasible for more students to attend college, resulting in improved higher education success rates. Central Arizona College (CAC), for instance, serves a county as big as the state of Connecticut that includes many isolated rural populations, many of whom are Latino and Native American and the first in their families to attend college. For 10 years, CAC has built upon a video distance-learning network to connect its main campus with three remote campuses, several learning centers throughout the county, and high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools. With video, CAC has expanded its course offerings dramatically and has reached more people than it ever would have been able to before.

 

Beyond bringing university education to more people, video exponentially enhances learning experiences. Through video conferencing, students who may never gather in the same physical room can meet from any number of disparate locations on a regular basis to have the conversations critical to real learning. Without this discussion and exchange of ideas, learning can become solitary and stale. Video fills that void in online education, keeping the human element of learning alive. Within the education spectrum, video links culture, career, and higher level learning resulting in a “connectivity culture” of the modern workplace into the classroom. This critical culture prepares students to be productive contributors. Video technology beholds the power to help turn our country’s education policy to personalize learning and improve the classroom.

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