Newswise — MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - The students in David Zabner’s Block 3 class, Database Technologies for Analytics, built skills for the future as they welcomed visitors to their online classroom.

The Cornell College computer science course focused on educating students about how to organize data intelligently, how to ask useful questions of the data, and how to answer them. 

But Zabner, a 2013 Cornell College graduate, stepped outside of the traditional limits of the classroom to plan a memorable course experience for his students. He brought in experts to help design and teach portions of the class during the 3 ½ week block.

“I believe in constructivism and specifically love the work of David Hammer, so I think that the best way to learn is to model the behavior of experts in a field,” Zabner said. “This class covers a very applied topic, so I believe that it is best learned by using the skills and technologies people are most often using day-to-day in business and research for analytics.”

And who has more business connections than the Berry Career Institute?

Zabner worked with Senior Director of the Berry Career Institute Jodi Schafer to develop a list of employers and alumni who could teach students how they work with data in a variety of businesses. 

“Almost every profession utilizes databases to get work done now, and of course, organizations are swimming in data, so this course provides practical skills to combine with the students’ liberal arts backgrounds,” Schafer said. “Students also get the opportunity to impress employers through their level of involvement, questions they ask, and general conversations. It’s a great opportunity to network.”

The visiting experts also assigned homework that modeled their jobs. Senior Asher Muse was enrolled in the course and enjoyed solving problems that the industry experts face in their daily work.

“There is something special about working with people currently in the field on problems they would work on in their day-to-day life,” Muse said. “It ensures that we get experience with exactly the technology that is being used in the workplace and also allows us to start building connections with potential employers and people in the field.”

Students focused solely on this course since they were only taking One Course At A Time for 3 ½ weeks. 

“The most important skill I hope students take away from the course is the ability to formulate intelligent, useful, answerable questions,” Zabner said. “They also grew their ability to design systems that helped them answer questions and share the knowledge gained in an actionable manner.”

These skills, learned in a single block, are skills that employers are seeking and skills that will help them as they become the next industry experts.

About Cornell College:

Cornell College, a selective liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, has a student population of around 1,000 students. Cornellians have been living, learning, and teaching on the block plan, One Course At A Time, for 40 years. This style of learning allows students to fully immerse themselves in their chosen topic of study, including taking field trips, diving into research, creating an art exhibit, or exploring issues in the local community. With students from nearly 50 states and 16 foreign countries, as well as renowned faculty, speakers, and entertainers, Cornell offers the world from its campus.

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