Tuesday, November 27, 2007

College Thinks Beyond Green

Rio Salado employee Natalie Sirovy models the college's new recyclable "tote bag" which she researched as part of the college's sustainability initiative.

For Rio Salado College employees, caring about the environment is more than a passing fad; it is becoming a lifestyle change that blends into their daily routines.

The college recently adopted several measures to “think green” and beyond. In fact, Rio Salado is concentrating on the holistic concept of sustainability, defined as “meeting the needs of the present while taking care of the future.”

To better understand sustainability, imagine three intersecting circles representing three major areas of sustainability. They are social, economic, and environmental. All of them are necessary and must work together to form the sweet spot in the center called sustainability. Sustainability reduces waste and therefore leads to increased profitability.

Rio Salado President Linda Thor recently became a charter signer of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. This commitment is an effort by higher education leaders to address global warming by leading their institutions to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, to accelerate research, and to promote educational efforts of higher education that equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

As part of this commitment, Rio will conduct an emissions inventory, set targets to become climate neutral, integrate sustainability into the curriculum, create an action plan, and report progress to the public. This commitment will help to lower college energy costs as well as demonstrate excellent public stewardship.

A first step is to install clean and green energy-generating technologies where possible, such as photovoltaic solar panels to reduce carbon emissions on one of the newly remodeled buildings at Rio Salado’s Tempe headquarters.

The college has committed to purchasing Energy Star electronic appliances and equipment to save resources. Also, the college will encourage the use of public transportation as part of trip reduction efforts.

It’s a fact that Americans use over 14 billion plastic bags annually. The petroleum in 14 plastic bags could drive a car for one mile. A Rio Salado employee, Natalie Sirovy, researched alternatives to using plastic bags at grocery stores.

As a result, when Rio Salado employees shop for groceries they no longer have to respond “paper” or “plastic.” Instead, they have the option of using 100% recyclable polypropylene tote bags, which the college makes available for $2 each. Proceeds benefit not only the environment but also the Rio Scholarship Fund

Rio Salado has committed to incorporating sustainability into the curriculum as well. This will emphasize not only green thinking but will also introduce the concepts of social and economic sustainability to help Rio's students prepare for future and current challenges.

Sustainability is one more way that Rio Salado College demonstrates its responsiveness to the communities it serves!

Now offered online ARABIC AND CHINESE

New foreign language classes at Rio Salado College will have you speaking some of the most spoken languages in the world from the comfort of your home.
Rio Salado has expanded its foreign languages courses to include Chinese and Arabic, two languages included in President Bush’s National Security Language Initiative launched in January of 2006. The plan is designed to strengthen national security and prosperity in the 21st century through education and the development of foreign language skills.
Online language courses are now available through Rio in not only the newly launched Arabic and Chinese; but also Japanese, French, German and Spanish.
Rio Salado College student Harminder Aujla hopes to someday do his part in strengthening national security. A United States Air Force Staff Sargent, Aujla is studying Arabic; his goal is to work as a linguist on national security issues.
He enjoys his online Arabic class and plans to continue in the program until he is fluent.
“It’s not hard. I think it is pretty easy,” said Aujla of his study of the third most spoken language in the world. Chinese is first, English second and Arabic third.
Like most of Rio Salado’s foreign language classes, the Arabic course uses state-of-the art voice recognition technology called Auralog which allows students to work at their own pace as they perfect pronunciation, learn vocabulary and improve sentence structure.
The voice recognition software really makes a difference in learning a language online, said Aujla.
Aujla’s instructor Sarah Risha, a native of Kuwait, says her online students do as well or better than as her in-person students. She initially was afraid students would not learn to speak correctly, but she’s been surprised at how well the interactive voice recognition program does at teaching foreign language skills.
“They do just as well as students in a classroom. They get it and they can do it,” said Risha.
“They also don’t have to drive to a campus but can take the class at their convenience. They can do it in the middle of the night, in the morning, whenever they have time to do it,” said Risha.
Although there are currently 28 students studying Arabic, Angela Felix, Rio Salado’s foreign language faculty chair, believes enrollment would soar if students were aware of the additional foreign languages classes Rio offers.
“People know they can come to Rio for Spanish classes, but most don’t know they can get all these other languages,” said Felix.
The online classes start every Monday and never close or cancel due to low enrollment like other colleges.
Many students from surrounding colleges and universities take their required language class at Rio, preferring the convenience of online learning and community college affordability.
With the online schedule, students can complete the class in the traditional 14 weeks, accelerate, or even complete the course at their own pace.
Students benefit from the highly interactive software, the 24/7 helpdesk support from instructors and immediate feedback from the voice recognition program.
Students hesitant about practicing difficult new words in front of a class like the ability to perfect pronunciation in front of a computer. The remarkable software tracks the students voice, graphing what sounds are correct and those incorrect. Diagrams help students position their mouth for perfect speech.
With the interactive voice recognition software students aren’t required to purchase textbooks. The Auralog software provides all the material students need to become proficient in speaking another language, said Felix. Auralog cost just $70 compared to textbooks that run at double Auralog’s price or more. The state-of-the-art software is the same that can be purchased for about $400 by the general public.
“Our students are really excited about this. They love the cutting-edge technology over having to buy expensive textbooks, but really appreciate having a knowledgeable faculty member available for guidance and help,” said Felix.
Rio Salado College, located in Tempe, AZ, has 450 online classes which start every Monday. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information please call 480-517-8255 or go to http://www.riosalado.edu/.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Customized Textbooks Save Students Money

Concerned about making higher education more affordable for students, Rio Salado College has partnered with Pearson Custom Publishing and Follett Higher Education Group to launch a ground-breaking program which will offer students customized textbooks to meet their needs at an affordable price.
“The innovative solution, the Textbook Savings Program, reduces students’ up-front costs by as much as 50% for a brand new customized textbook,” said Dr. Linda Thor, Rio Salado College president.
The program is the first of its kind in the nation and will begin December 21 for classes starting in January 2008. Published specifically for Rio Salado students, these customized textbooks will contain exactly the material required for Rio Salado courses and be available only at the Bookstore @ Rio Salado, which is managed by Follett Higher Education Group.
“The program is unique because it requires the adoption of customized textbooks from a single publisher, modifications of the standard used book model, and most of all the total commitment of the faculty and the college,” said Thor.

The program will be phased into the Bookstore @ Rio Salado by stages as Pearson adds new textbooks each semester. The roll out is expected to be complete in October of 2009 and will cover approximately 90 percent of the textbooks used by Rio Salado courses. The first customized textbooks will be offered in a variety of courses including English 101, Biology 201 and 202, History 103 and 104, Communications 110 for a total of 32 courses. Book orders are being taken now.
Rio Salado College, one of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges, offers 450 online classes and has more than 48,000 plus credit students. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more.
Pearson Custom Publishing is the custom and database publishing business of Pearson Education's Higher Education group. It has been a leader among custom publishers for nearly 30 years and assists educators with print and media solutions for their course material needs by utilizing original material, Pearson Education content and third-party content to create new customized works. For more information, visit http://www.pearsoncustom.com/.
Follett Higher Education Group manages bookstores for more than 780 colleges and universities nationwide and provides management systems, support services, and used textbooks to over 1,800 independently managed bookstores.