Is the ERC Reinventing the Wheel?

Russ Steele

The ERC wants to bring a University presence to Nevada County. Some of the details are in a Union article: 

The Nevada County Economic Resource Council met Thursday to discuss the group’s economic development efforts, and the potential launch of university-level education for students in the county.

ERC Executive Director Jon Gregory updated the board on the “Connected Community Education” session, a May 28 meeting that members of the council attended with representatives from Chico State University, Sierra College, and Cisco Systems. Business industry reps and local education stakeholders also attended the meeting.

It appears the existing plan is to being Chico State to Nevada County via Cisco Systems distant learning technology.  My question is why? Chico is rated 42nd in US News Regional Universities. There are higher quality schools offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that could be used, enabling the selection of the best courses, from MIT, Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Sanford and others here

Here is an example from Stanford:

Welcome to Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE)

For the first time in its history, Stanford is offering some of its most popular engineering classes free of charge to students and educators around the world. Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) expands the Stanford experience to students and educators online. A computer and an Internet connection are all you need. View lecture videos, access reading lists and other course handouts, take quizzes and tests, and communicate with other SEE students, all at your convenience.

SEE programming includes one of Stanford’s most popular sequences: the three-course Introduction to Computer Science taken by the majority of Stanford’s undergraduates and seven more advanced courses in artificial intelligence and electrical engineering.

Stanford Engineering Everywhere offers:

Anytime and anywhere access to complete lecture videos via streaming or downloaded media.

Full course materials including syllabi, handouts, homework, and exams.

Online social networking with fellow SEE students.

Support for PCs, Macs and mobile computing devices.

Stanford encourages fellow educators to use Stanford Engineering course materials in their own classrooms. A Creative Commons license allows for free and open use, reuse, adaptation and redistribution of Stanford Engineering Everywhere material.

Combine this course material with Sierra College Per-engineering courses and graduates will be ready to enter the work force, perhaps not with an engineering degree, but with the skills need by local industry. Today with grade inflation at the Universities, a sheep skin is no proof that the potential employee has the needed skills. A certification examination and certificate is better insurance against hiring a ringer. Sierra College could be come the issuer of these certification certificates, in connection with a local non-profit, such as the Sierra Economics and Science Foundation.  

I am not sure that the ERC is thinking far enough out of the box. There is no need for an expensive Cisco Distant Learning System,  the best courses are now on-line from the top universities, no waiting for costly infrastructure. 

George Rebane has some thoughts on MOOC’s here and here.

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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5 Responses to Is the ERC Reinventing the Wheel?

  1. Russ Steele says:

    The Importance of Specialization in the Tech Job Market

    Due to the influx of technology and a highly competitive workforce, the nature of the tech job market is fundamentally changing, migrating away from full-time generalists into part-time specialists.

    The ability to be an “expert” in a particular area is increasingly valuable. For companies, contracting out to specialists can provide a competitive advantage at a fraction of the cost of hiring full-time employees. In response to this shift, many MBA and undergraduate programs over the past 5-10 years have embraced specialization by offering degrees in a variety of specialized industries.

    If you want to create value and kick start a successful career in the tech sector, my advice is to specialize, specialize, specialize! When you’re a generalist in something, you may have wide horizontal opportunities — meaning you can bounce from company to company doing the same thing and receiving the same pay — but if you want greater opportunities for advancement, specialization is key.

    Some areas of specialization:

    Search Engine Optimization
    Big Data.

    More details here:


  2. Russ Steele says:

    George Rebane at Rebane’s Ruminations writes in an e-mail:

    I think what needs to be done is to develop a palette of STEM MOOCs appropriate for Nevada County businesses, then present the palette to local managements to select which courses they would want their new hires to have under their belts for various staff levels. ERC should head this up, SESF could assist them. But you’re absolutely right about taking a survey of what’s already available from better colleges.


  3. Russ Steele says:

    In on-campus classes with online components, known as blended classes, instructors are following in the footsteps of MOOC leaders by dividing their lectures into short segments, giving more frequent assessments and providing more opportunities for problem-solving activities that have proved effective in improving student performance, she says.

    In some cases, ​instructors are using MOOC materials to supplement their own on-campus courses​, experts say.

    “In blended classrooms, the on-campus university course can leverage the power of MOOCs to free up classroom time for interactive collaboration and discussion, testing and problem-solving,” Anant Agarwal, CEO of the nonprofit MOOC provider edX,​ said in an email. At San Jose State University, edX helped create a blended​ electrical engineering course which had higher passing rates than the traditional course, he said.

    One of the MOOC issues is completion rates, which are in the low teens. By blending a community college experiences with the higher ed MOOC coerces, this rate could be improved, especially if the students could see an immediate benefit by creating internships with local companies. Sierra college could provide the educational structure, the MOOCs the higher ed material and local company internships can provide the motivation to compete the courses. Completing a palette of approved MOOC Courses would make the student eligible for an internship with local applied technology companies. A blended solution for creating a skilled work force at a reasonable cost, for the student, the community and local industry. Lets do some out of the box noodling about how we could implement such a program.


  4. Russ Steele says:

    Here is a link to 10 online engineering schools favored by international students. However the real message is there are 10 on line engineering schools.


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