Classes begin: Students at Bay are hitting the books once again

ESCANABA – Hallways were crowded, classrooms were packed, and the campus bookstore was abuzz Monday at Bay College as students began the fall 2013 semester.

This fall, just under 2,400 students are starting classes throughout the entire Bay College system, according to Matt Soucy, vice president of student services at Bay College.

That number includes 1,521 students attending Bay College’s Escanaba campus, just over 600 students at Bay College West in Iron Mountain, and nearly 1,000 students taking at least one online class, he said.

However, these numbers are still settling as students add and drop classes in the first couple of weeks.

Soucy said the college planned for enrollment numbers to be down for the fall semester, a trend seen nationwide.

“Right now it’s down around 10 percent, which is a nationwide phenomenon this year,” he said. “A lot of schools are facing declining enrollment.”

However, the number of high school students taking college level courses through Bay College’s dual enrollment program is at a fall semester record-high 231 students.

This could be attributed to the state expanding dual enrollment from serving only 11th and 12th grade students to now serving ninth through 12th-graders who are academically ready to take the higher level courses.

Another recent implementation is earning online degrees, according to Kim Carne, vice president of institutional advancement at the college.

“We do have online degrees available,” said Carne. “The business degree can be taken completely online now, and that’s key in the online area.”

Soucy and Carne also spoke on how technology continues to be implemented into the classrooms as some students use eBooks as textbooks or combine the traditional classroom learning experience with online learning through hybrid courses.

“We have several sections that are hybrids where students will come to class occasionally but a lot of their work is online as well,” said Soucy. “Along with that, we have several sections where the courses are being flipped and that would be so the lecture material is captured and available online so the student prepares for the class by watching the lecture material or reading the material online and then comes to class and the instructor helps them through the homework.”

Another opportunity is for students from the two campuses to participate in courses simultaneously through interactive television, where the instructor uses a smart board to transmit information to students in a separate classroom at the other campus. A screen located in the back of the classroom allows the instructor to see students at the other campus to create the feeling of one large classroom environment.

“The use of technology in the classroom is so much greater than it used to be in that those new technology tools have allowed for flipping the classroom, hybrid classrooms, and the eBooks,” said Carne. “Without that technology, you just couldn’t do that.”

A new nursing training area at the college, which includes a simulation center where students use special mannequins to experience many medical conditions and scenarios they may not get to in their clinical hours, will be fully implemented in January; however, Carne said some classes are incorporating the simulation center into their coursework this fall.

As far as the first few days of classes, staff and faculty try to help students out by pointing out where their classrooms are and by informing them of all the services the college provides.

“We’re trying to get the word out that students can access free tutoring here on campus, career advising, and of course there’s financial aid to help people pay,” said Soucy. “It’s also time for students that aren’t here to start thinking about coming in the winter. It’s not too early to start planning for the winter semester as well.”

Until winter, there are many upcoming activities happening campus-wide beginning with a student cookout Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Bay College courtyard area, the Norman Magic Experience magic show Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Besse Center Theater, and a new Joyce Koskenmaki art exhibit in the Besse Center Gallery on display beginning Wednesday. Also coming up are auditions for the fall musical “Little Shop of Horrors” and the fall semester film series debuting with the Isle Royale film “Fifty Lakes, One Island” on Sept. 12.

“It’s great to have the students back on campus,” said Soucy. “The staff and faculty really look forward to seeing them every fall and it really kicks off the year well.”