Scientific approach pays off at Gloucester County College


By Denise Jewell     Gloucester County Times

Inside the clean white walls of Gloucester County College's new technology building are rows of computers with updated technology that officials say give students the tools to train for real careers.

The newest addition to GCC's campus - the $6.53 million Virginia N. Scott Center for Science and Technology designed by Garrison Architects of Mt. Laurel - is the centerpiece of an $8 million campus improvement project that is almost complete.

The cost of the building, which opened in September, was split between Gloucester County's Improvement Authority and the state. "This is brand-new, and it really was overdue in supporting the courses that we offer," said C. Joseph Nace, GCC's dean of business studies and technologies.
The building, which is split into two wings for science and technology courses, houses 191 computers in 21 classrooms and computer, chemistry and biology labs.

Nace said the building - which cost $5.93 million to design and construct, as well as more than $500,000 for new equipment and furniture - will give students the opportunity to get hands-on training on updated equipment throughout the business industry.

"The college is really spending where they need to; they are not just going out to buy the latest tools unnecessarily," Nace said. "If you're going to offer these programs and you want to prepare students for careers in the community, you have to have what these organizations need." The school offers programs from traditional computer science courses to a new database management program.

Each computer in the new building is connected to a high-speed network connection that allows data to transfer 10 times faster than the college's older infrastructure and provides security, service and high availability. Each computer lab is also designed to be on its own Virtual Local Area Network, which helps improve electronic traffic through the network. Azi Lhadj, GCC's senior network engineer, said the "leading edge" network infrastructure will be extended to the rest of campus this fall.

In the future, the network could allow the school to send real-time video programs to any classroom across campus and use the same network for voice data.

"The building, as well as the campus, is very well positioned as far as these technologies," Lhadj said. Scott Hall also has two specialized labs - a Network Management lab and a Macintosh computer lab - for students taking networking or graphic design courses.

The new technology, Nace said, gives students "hands-on opportunities and skills that they're going to need when they go for their careers."
Each new science lab in the building has expanded lecture and laboratory space with computers for students to use for lab projects. About half the building's classrooms are equipped with projector systems, which cost $7,500 apiece, that allow instructors to project movies and computer images onto a screen in front of class. Inside one chemistry lab, an electronic blackboard - known as a Smart Board - allows instructors to access Web sites, online notes, or computer software to show the class. The screen, which looks like a chalkboard-sized computer screen when used with the projector system - is touch-sensitive. The board and projector system costs about $10,000.

"It adds another dimension to the lecture," said GCC professor Raymond Gangi. During his chemistry course, he uses the board to present notes and access media presentations.

"What it's done is, it helps the students follow along exactly the way I want them to," Gangi said.
While there are five Smart Boards on campus, they were purchased separately from the Scott Hall building project.
"It's not about using (new technology) for using its sake, it's about: How are we going to use it for learning?" Nace said. "And if we aren't, we aren't going to buy it."

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