Hands-on learning helps most students retain much more information than simply reading material out of a textbook or listening to an instructor lecture for hours on end. Medical students practice procedures on their peers, and massage students practice techniques on willing participants.
Information technology degree students at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center also have the luxury to practice on something concrete: computers.
Throughout the Fall 2012 Computer Essentials class, five students learned how to take the basic idea of what they wanted to see in a computer and then turn that idea into a working machine to take home and utilize. The class was instructed by Michael Leonard, full time faculty member at the campus.
Leonard explained the process that the students had to take from idea to product:
“Students began the project by trying to decide exactly what they wanted to see in a computer system. Those students in my class that are gamers had different needs than those who simply needed a functioning computer. After everyone figured out what they wanted, the students researched the various parts and components that were needed. It was necessary to figure out the schematics on how each part worked as well as figure out if the parts would work collaboratively well together.
“After this essential step, the parts were ordered both through the school and through outside sources. It was an exciting day for all of us when everything arrived to campus. The students were very excited to dive in and get to work! Over the course of several class periods, the students put their computers together piece by piece and then installed operating systems from Microsoft. In the end, everyone’s computer functioned, which was pretty amazing because that does not always happen.”
While Leonard definitely knows his stuff when it comes to computers, he felt that the students would learn even more if he brought in an outside expert. The expert was Scott Burdette, Leonard’s childhood friend, who has worked in network administration and technical support for several major companies, including Pillsbury, the YMCA, and Micron Computers. He is currently the systems administrator and consultant for a major accounting firm located in the Twin Cities. Burdette joined Leonard’s class on several occasions after the parts arrived, offering important tips during construction of the students’ computers.
Burdette said: “Building a custom computer is not an easy task. The students all chose the correct parts for their systems: cases, power supplies, processors, memory chips, video cards, hard drives, and more. These weren’t your average computers, either–they were well thought-out speed demons designed specifically for gaming.
“The students carefully assembled their new systems with basic assistance and the help of some special tools I brought with me. Occasionally, they needed some experienced advice on important details; but for the most part, I just enjoyed watching them learn the build process.
“I followed up with Michael a week later, and he told me all the systems were running great, and the students were happy and satisfied with their new computers. The advantage of having hands-on experience builds confidence and is essential to remaining calm in a crisis situation. Hopefully, they’ll never know the stress of replacing the failed power supply of a payroll server on July 2–but if they do, they’ll have the skills to do it, and they’ll get the satisfaction of saving the holiday weekend for the entire staff of a company. In the meantime, the Orcs and Goblins of Azeroth better watch out; some well-equipped adventurers are headed their way!”
For more information on the information technology program at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center, please call 763-566-7777.