(For those new to the column, Forward Migration is our term for companies moving from Wintel machines to Macs — or at least adding or increasing the number of Macs they use. A Forward Migration Kit is an overview of Mac OS products for a particular occupation, such as photography, optometry, etc.)
When Montgomery College in Conroe, TX, needed a way to create students IDs, track grades at the school’s fitness facility, and keep a log of lab usage, it was Apple technology to the rescue.
And what was the solution? A FileMaker Pro Server, iMacs, one Power Mac G4 workstation at the front counter of the Wellness Center (the proper name for the fitness facility), a “swipe type” bar code scanner, iBot digital camera, laminator for Ids and FileMaker Pro 5.0. The development of the solution was a cooperative project by John Chapin, dean of the Science, Health and Wellness Division; Butch Juelg, director of IT User Services (as the programmer); and the now-departed Wellness Center director.
“I wrote a FileMaker application to do the tasks we needed done and purchased a touchscreen iMac,” said Juelg. “We use bar scanners to log students into the facility by swiping their ID card, and purchased an iBot digital camera to take the pictures. FileMaker controls all these things.”
Students now just swipe their cards to log in and out. And they’re notified of the time they log out by e-mail so they can track their required usage.
Grade tracking is currently done only for courses held in the Wellness Center. However, the log-in/log-out and tracking procedures have been implemented for all the college’s labs. For example, instructors can get information on how long students have spent in the Learning Resource Center, a facility with tutors in math, English and science, which serves as the focal point for study groups.
“Students can log in and log out and tell why they’re there,” Juelg said. “Students are required to do so much lab time, and time in the learning center counts toward this. The Mac solution helps generate a report of student time and activities spent at the Learning Resource Center.”
The touchscreen iMacs are used for the log-in and log-out procedures. The video camera takes photos for IDs, which are then printed out on color printers. Students bring their ID cards, which are bar coded, with them during lab visits and swipe them to leave a record of when they enter and leave.
The hardware/software solution chosen also allowed the college to contact students with course information and let students use touch screen technology to check their grades. In fact, there are four iMac kiosks around campus that students can use to keep track of those all important numbers.
“In the Wellness Center, for instance, they can see what their current grade is, how long they have worked out, how much more time they need to spend in the center, how many wellness checks they’ve done, and how many workshops they have done,” Juelg said. “We’ve made their learning experience more interactive and communicative.”
The software database for all this is controlled through FileMaker Pro via a program that Juelg wrote specifically for this purpose.
“FileMaker Pro is like a structure that you can write applications on top of,” he said. “Just about anything you want to do can be written for the database software.”
The log-in system has proven so successful that it’s being examined and considered by the two other colleges in the North Harris Montgomery Community College District. Montgomery College itself chose a Mac solution for its needs for a good reason: it’s an Apple-dominated institution. Approximately 75-80 percent of the computers on campus are Macs.
“If we went Wintel, that would be a specialized system for us,” Juelg said. “Besides, Macs are easy to work with and easy to set up, especially iMacs because of their design. There’s just one box, with the CPU and monitor together, to work with. And we simply like the interface of the Mac operating system.”
Montgomery College is a two-year community college. The average age of a student there is 28. The college serves students of all ages, including 16- and 17-year-old dual credit students from area high schools, and many who are well into their 60s, 70s and 80s.
Montgomery College was recognized as a “Showcase College” at the Consortium for Community College Development’s Summer 2000 Institute in Portland, OR. Additionally, because of its strong demonstrated interest in defining, developing, delivering and documenting student-learning outcomes, the college was selected as one of 16 community colleges nationwide to participate in the League for Innovation’s “21st Century Learning Outcomes Project.