Merit Network

Macomb Community College – Teaching Students, Partnering with Universities

Brian Warkoczeski 2010 News, News

Since 1991, Macomb Community College has partnered with four-year colleges and universities in Michigan to provide students with advanced degree programs through its University Center.

Rather than go off to college, Macomb County residents can work towards a degree at Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, Madonna University, Michigan State University (MSU), Oakland University, Rochester College, University of Detroit Mercy, Walsh College, or Wayne State University (WSU) while staying home and attending classes at Macomb Community College’s University Center.

After a student has completed the required coursework at Macomb Community College, he or she can then transfer into the degree program at the partner university or college to finish the necessary classes. The program has been extremely successful, with more than 3,000 students working towards a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

The University Center features state-of-the-art technology, including high-definition telepresence facilities that enable students at the Center Campus in Clinton Township to interact with professors in East Lansing, Detroit, and other locations around the state. Macomb Community College provides the university partners with shared teaching classrooms and general Internet connectivity over its local network.

New this year, Macomb College began offering its partners the ability to have dedicated classrooms with dedicated connectivity to Merit’s backbone network. In June 2009, Merit established a network access point (NAP) at Macomb Community College’s Center Campus, directly connecting Macomb Community College to Merit’s backbone via fiber-optic cable and enabling Merit-connected universities to have dedicated, high-capacity connections at the University Center.

The new fiber-optic connection and network access point greatly benefit the efforts of University Center’s partners, according to Mike Zimmerman, CIO and executive director of communications and information technology.

“Macomb Community College has a great relationship with all of its four-year partners and is committed to their success. MSU and Oakland University have greatly increased their reliance upon Merit network resources at the University Center over the past year and it is critical they don’t compete for bandwidth. Prior to the Merit NAP at Macomb, their network traffic was shared with Macomb and all other University Partners over a single 50 Mb circuit. The Merit NAP permits them to independently attach to the Merit network at whatever capacity they deem appropriate for their programs and communication needs while simultaneously isolating their network traffic from others on the primary Macomb network. As the programs of other University partners require expanded use of Merit network resources, they, too, can directly connect to the Merit backbone to benefit from independent connectivity if they so require it.”

Teaching Future Doctors

The new network access point at the University Center has opened the door to new opportunities for university partners and Macomb Community College students.

Michigan State University recently began hosting an expansion site of its College of Osteopathic Medicine at Macomb’s Center Campus, providing the first two years of the four-year medical school curriculum.

“The students are enrolled in MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing, and are assigned to attend classes at one of three sites: either the East Lansing campus, the University Center, or the Detroit Medical Center,” Zimmerman said.

Students began attending MSUCOM courses at Macomb Community College in June 2009, with classes being held in temporary facilities at Macomb College and at the Detroit Medical Center. MSUCOM’s new facilities on Macomb’s campus officially welcomed students in December 2009.

“Macomb County is the heartland of community-based medicine because you have seven major training hospitals within 20 miles of Macomb Community College’s campus,” said Kari Hortos, associate dean for Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “With this program, we are providing students with the initial courses they will take before starting their residency and intensive training.”

Michigan State has leased dedicated space in the University Center that is directly connected to Merit’s backbone network through MSU’s Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN). Course lectures are taught via interactive videoconferencing, which gives professors the flexibility to teach students from 102 Conrad and Fee Hall in East Lansing, Macomb Community College, and Detroit Medical Center. Students at those locations can then have periodic in-person contact with their professor and participate in daily course lectures using the telepresence technology.

The new MSUCOM program is the largest telepresence-based education initiative in North America. Class lectures are currently taught using the interactive technology between 12 and 15 hours per week, which will grow to 30 hours per week this year.

Beyond the University Center

In addition to supporting classroom activities, the new network connection is allowing Macomb College to consider other collaboration activities with university partners.

“We are actively exploring shared services and joint business continuity models with Oakland University,” Zimmerman said. “We are also collaborating with other peer institutions on virtualization concepts which may leverage the new Merit NAP to further reduce implementation and operational costs.”

Possible shared services include disaster recovery and virtualization, which would leverage the network connection to save money and benefit both organizations.

For over 18 years, Macomb’s University Center has served the educational needs of degree-seeking students in Macomb County. With its new network connection, Macomb Community College is providing its university partners with more resources and opportunities for collaboration.

About Macomb Community College

Macomb Community College is one of the nation’s leading community colleges, providing learning experiences to more than 59,000 students annually. Macomb College ranks nationally in the top two percent in the number of associate’s degrees awarded and as the largest grantor of associate’s degrees in Michigan. Macomb Community College has been a Member of Merit Network since January 2000.