Gulf Coast State College
Creating Learning Environments that Launch Careers
Gulf Coast State College is a public university that was founded in 1957 and is located in Panama City, Florida. The school has always been committed to providing degrees that deliver results for each student's investment in education, with the school mission stating that it "offers a range of programs and services to help students become well-educated, productive citizens." In August 2013, that purpose was given new meaning with the unveiling of the Advanced Technology Center (ATC), a spectacular 100,000-square-foot building that trail blazes learning environments with a focus on real-world preparedness.
Dr. Stephen Dunnivant, the dean of the ATC, underscores the importance of universities prioritizing workforce readiness: "In the aftermath of the Great Recession, with mounting national student debt and a still-quivering labor market, it is more important than ever for students to leave school with the skills necessary to secure a job." Indeed, Dr. Dunnivant and his team believe the solution lies in linking learning to the workforce through environments that sharpen real-world skills and incorporate a spirit of hands-on entrepreneurism into the culture of each classroom.
One way Gulf Coast State College realizes this mission is by creating a curriculum that reflects the local labor market. For example, Panama City has a large hospitality industry, so the ATC houses state-of-the-art culinary equipment to ensure graduates are at the cutting edge of that industry. The certificate and degree programs also reflect the local jobs driven by tech and the military base, with students able to study engineering technology, information technology and digital media.
Additionally, the ATC includes a state-of-the-art TV studio featuring Panasonic professional cameras and studio equipment, such as the AW-HE120K, AW-RP120GJ and AG-AC160APJ. This video classroom is highly advanced, with faculty members able to take or delegate control of equipment across teams of students at each of the five "pods," allowing students to gain industry experience with the guidance of an instructor. The learning space also features "post-collaboration" zones, as well as three separate breakout studio offices where instructors and peers can review each other's work on Panasonic monitors that produce faithful color hues in clear resolution.
The Panasonic PTZ system cameras feature IP-based control for easy operation and setup, at both initial implementation and later potential system expansion. The AW-HE120 pan-tilt cameras and AW-RP120GJ system controller provide smooth camera movement, precise control and the same high picture quality and sophisticated automation enjoyed by major news and sports networks, while the AG-AC160APJ delivers matching broadcast-quality video from a tripod mounted camcorder.
This emphasis on a real-world ethos extends beyond the curriculum, shaping classrooms and the very framework of how students learn any subject at the school. "As we built this facility, we wanted environments that reflected the times and produced the highest-quality education for all students," said Dr. Dunnivant. "Technology is fundamentally changing how students learn, and the prevalence of auditory learners declines every year. Students must be engaged to learn and are more receptive to classrooms that are electronically enhanced."
"Straight rows are not conducive to success in the workforce. It was time to move forward."
With that framework, the faculty and staff at Gulf Coast State College chose not to implement the rows that facilitated didactic learning, favoring instead a "flipped classroom" that promoted collaboration and experiential learning. Furthermore, the classrooms received a major technology upgrade, including about two dozen interactive displays that bring content to life and enable truly collaborative work by allowing up to four users to simultaneously create and share materials. The goal is to eventually have an interactive flat panel in every classroom.
Experiential learning extends beyond the classroom, with more than 150 flat-panels such as the TH-42PF50U, TH-50PF50U and the TH-55LRU50 used in meeting rooms and as digital signage in the ATC. These devices enable high-definition video conferencing, group work collaboration and instant communication of important information.Dr. Dunnivant also notes the importance of faculty in developing collaborative classrooms. "Their counsel was tremendously important, as they are the ones living in the classroom world day in and day out. Having the right partner in place is crucial to ensuring a project of such scale is a success. Explained Dr. Dunnivant, "Our AV partners need to understand our language and listen to our needs, not just sell products.
"Panasonic is a great example. They visited our facility and engaged with our staff. Because they're knowledgeable, they were able to understand what an 'engaged experiential learning environment' is and the benefit that it would have on a student's ability to enter the workforce. They were able to take that insight and apply it to their recommendations. Panasonic really understood what we needed and they had the capability, scope and scale to make this a success. As a result, they have been a valued partner in developing the ATC."