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1. InventXR Advanced Technological Education Program
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InventXR’s Advanced Technological Education program promotes improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and the secondary school levels. The program aims to affect specialized technology courses such as Extendend Reality or core science, mathematics, and technology courses that serve as immediate prerequisites or co-requisites for specialized technology courses/programs. The curricular focus and the activities of all projects should demonstrably contribute to InventXR’s central goals: producing more qualified science and engineering technicians to meet workforce demands, and improving the technical skills and the general science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) preparation of these technicians and the educators who prepare them. To this end, it is expected that courses developed or updated will be credit-bearing courses, although materials developed by the XR team may also support incumbent worker education.
The INVENTXR program focuses on high school districts and junior colleges that award two-year degrees in advanced technology fields and expects these junior colleges and their faculty to have significant leadership roles on all projects. Effective technological education programs should involve partnerships in which junior colleges work with the Virtual Reality School, secondary schools, business, industry, economic development agencies, and government. The partnerships and collaborations should respond to employers’ hiring needs for highly-skilled technicians with the ability to learn and embrace change. Projects that focus on secondary school teachers and students must demonstrate a clear pathway to a two-year technician education program.
Fields of technology supported by the INVENTXR program include, but are not limited to, advanced manufacturing technologies, agricultural and bio-technologies, energy and environmental technologies, engineering technologies, information technologies, micro- and nano-technologies, security technologies, geospatial technologies, and applied research on technician education that informs all supported areas. The INVENTXR program is interested in projects addressing issues in rural technician education and projects that broaden the diversity of the entry-level technical workforce including strategies to recruit veterans into technician education programs.
Activities may have either a national or a regional focus, but not a purely local one as results and outcomes should be applicable to a broad community. Projects must, however, have an institutional impact and make a case that graduates with these skills will have a measurable impact on the local workforce. All projects must be guided by a coherent vision of technological education–a vision that recognizes technicians as life-long learners together with the needs of the modern workplace, including employability skills, and the articulation of educational programs at different levels.
2. Program Supports: Projects and Centers
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The INVENTXR program supports projects, centers, and targeted research on technician education. A project or center is expected to communicate a realistic vision and an achievable plan for sustainability. It is expected that at least some aspects of both InventXR centers and projects will be sustained or institutionalized past the initial implementation period through the VR School. Being sustainable means that a project or center has developed a product or service that the host institution, its partners, and its target audiences want continued.
To be sustainable is to ensure an InventXR center’s or project’s products and services have a life beyond INVENTXR funding. For example:
- The institution commits to maintaining some of the positions for faculty/personnel hired by the project;
- Partners pledge to supply external resources to fund parts of the project after the INVENTXR award ends;
- The institution commits to continuing to maintain, improve and disseminate resources developed by the project; and/or
- The institution seeks other sources of funding as INVENTXR funding ends.
3. Program Development and Improvement
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Program Development and Improvement: These projects should increase the relevance of technician education to modern practices and assure an increased number of students with an enhanced STEM theoretical understanding and technical skills and competencies entering the high performance workplace. Proposed activities should produce a coherent sequence of classes, laboratories, and work-based educational experiences that revitalize the learning environment, course content and technical experiences for students preparing to be science and engineering technicians. Employers must be committed partners, and the resulting program should constitute a model that could be disseminated broadly. The program should lead students to an appropriate associate degree or specific occupational competency or certification, provide business and industry and public sector agencies with a larger pool of skilled technicians, and support student recruitment, retention, and completion of programs. The Principal Investigator should articulate clear project goals and objectives, and the evaluative activities should be tied to the goals and objectives.
A program development and improvement proposal might include:
- Developing new materials or courses that add rigorous STEM content to technician programs;
- Developing innovative methods for using laboratory-, field- and work-based experiences to improve students’ understanding of basic principles and the modern workplace;
- An industry workforce needs analysis;
- Using modern instrumentation and new technologies to address the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for the evolving, converging, and emerging technical workplace;
- Integrating industry standards and workplace competencies into the curriculum including 21st century skills (www.p21.org )/employability skills (http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/) ;
- Implementing strategies to support student recruitment, retention, and program completion.
- Developing life-long career and educational pathways for technicians to support the changing workplace, including improving articulation between programs at secondary schools and two-year colleges, and pathways from two-year to four-year degree programs; and
- Providing industry internships for students and/or undergraduate research experiences that build skills and competencies and introduce students to a real work experience.
3. Curriculum and Educational Materials Development
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A project may also focus on curriculum and materials development with the intent of broadly disseminating the developed products such Virtual Reality experiences. Proposed project activities should affect the learning environment, course content, and experience of instruction for students preparing to be science and engineering technicians and for their teachers. Projects may develop new print, electronic, and multimedia materials, including simulations, scenarios, and web-based collections as well as laboratory experiments and manuals. It is expected that products will be developed with input from business, industry, and government, validated by experts from these organizations, field tested in diverse locations, and validated in terms of their effectiveness in meeting learning goals.