Thursday, August 30, 2012

News Isn't Red or Blue

Make a difference this election season. 

Help public radio station KJZZ 91.5 promote informed, accurate and credible news coverage by joining its News isn't Red Or Blue campaign and placing a KJZZ yard sign in front of your home.

Let your neighbors know where to find impartial reporting, civil discourse, and the facts they'll need to cast an educated vote this November 6.

Submit a fun or clever photo of yourself with the sign to KJZZ for a chance to win tickets to this year's Tequilazona West benefit.

Visit the following Rio Salado College locations for your News Isn't Red or Blue sign:
East Valley Veterans Education Center
Rio Salado College Administrative Headquarters
RSC Avondale
RSC Downtown
RSC East Valley
RSC Lifelong Learning Center
RSC Northern
RSC Orangewood
RSC Southern
RSC Thomas

Listeners may also download and use the following image as their Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profile to support #RealNews through social media.

Right click and "Save As" to download.

About KJZZ 91.5
KJZZ is a listener-supported public radio station that is licensed to the Maricopa Community College District. It is as a community service of Rio Salado College’s Division of Public Service, which also includes KBAQ 89.5 and Sun Sounds of Arizona. KJZZ features a mix of local and NPR news, entertainment, jazz and blues—serving nearly 319,000 weekly listeners. For more information, visit

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Novel Faculty Model Key to Serving Students

It may be upside down, but when it comes to serving students, Rio Salado College’s adjunct faculty model is the key to student success.

 To serve its nearly 70,000 students each year, Rio Salado employs 23 faculty chairs and more than 1,400 adjunct faculty members as part of its “one course, many sections” model.

 The “one course, many section” model creates an environment where students have the flexibility and access to classes they may need with numerous sections and start dates almost every week. This freedom and availability for students in a distance learning format is possible because of Rio Salado College’s large pool of qualified adjunct faculty members.

Faculty President Angela Felix explains how the process works.
“We have more than 1400 Adjunct Faculty Members across all academic disciplines, and they are vitally important to the teaching and learning process. The Adjuncts teach in departments managed by Faculty Chairs utilizing approved curricula that follow District-wide course competencies,” said Felix. “We utilize a systems approach, which means that there are support structures in place that free Adjuncts and Chairs from time-consuming administrative duties so we can focus our attention on quality teaching designed to increase student learning."
Benefits of the unique teaching model include sustainable learning systems, consistent course content and instructor diversity.

 “Classes can be staffed based on a teacher’s' strengths,” said Sheri Skousen, an adjunct faculty member in the Languages department. “For example, in language classes, one instructor may be better at teaching a conversation course, while another excels in grammar and written content.”
The need for the “one course, many section” model developed over time. Established in 1978, the college initially held classes throughout Maricopa County in neighborhood schools, churches and strip malls.  Later on, the college became a pioneer in online learning and began to offer online classes to its students in 1996.

The college is always looking for new adjunct faculty members.

 “Due to Rio’s reputation as a great place to work, we continuously receive online applications from qualified individuals that are interested in teaching for us. “Teach for Rio” is a link on our public website and Chairs can review the pool of applicants to interview for available teaching opportunities,” Said Felix.  “Chairs can reach out to their community advisory councils to recruit potential adjunct faculty members, and Faculty Services will also advertise for adjunct openings in print and online publications.”

Once an adjunct instructor is hired, the college makes a concerted effort to offer support, flexibility and a number of services for its adjunct faculty.

 “Rio Salado offers a variety of online and in-person training and development courses for adjuncts,” said faculty member Sheri Skousen.

In addition, adjunct faculty members have access to stipends to attend workshops and trainings to help develop teaching skills and expand subject matter knowledge.
Skousen has gotten the most out of her time as an adjunct faculty member.
“I have taught a variety of courses for Rio Salado for 13 years,” Skousen said. “During that time, I have also been involved in course development.  Being an adjunct faculty at Rio Salado has allowed me to pursue my career goals in an atmosphere that promotes growth and professionalism.”

Rio Salado will be celebrating  the efforts of 36 of its adjunct instructors at a reception for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty on August 29.
Written by  Ryan Bawek, Rio Salado College PR Intern
Published in the Tempe Republic August, 25, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Connect to the RSC Community

Connecting to the community is an integral part of the college experience. Rio Salado College students have several options that help them to stay up to date with college news, network with other students, and interact with the extended RSC community.

Rio Lounge- The RioLounge online social network is exclusively for RSC students. In addition to helpful articles and college news, RioLounge provides an opportunity to buy and sell books, participate in student led discussion groups, and meet other online students who share the same goals. Students can access RioLounge by clicking a link in the services tab of RioLearn.

Student Organizations- RSC students are also encouraged to participate in sanctioned student groups like Phi Theta Kappa, Student Public Policy Forum (SPPF), and Honors. Additional student groups available through the Maricopa Community College District include the Maricopa Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (MACHE) and the Asian Pacific Islander Association (APIA).
Rio Community News and Events- Find student success stories, community events and academic resources here on RioNews, or visit the RSC Newsroom for press releases, news coverage about the college and community outreach information.

Public Social Networks - RSC supports community interaction through a variety of social media channels. The entire RSC community is encouraged to participate in conversations on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. RSC can also be found on YouTube, Reddit, and Flickr.

Never discuss or share confidential information such as your student number or social security number on any social networking site or on Rio Lounge.

Monday, August 13, 2012

RioLearn Showcases College's Culture of Innovation

Earlier this month, a collaboration of program developers, course designers, faculty members, web specialists, and graphic artists launched an upgraded version of Rio Salado College’s online learning management platform, RioLearn.

Not only is the updated design easier for students to navigate, it lays the groundwork for a series of planned improvements. In fact, the RioLearn team is already working on additional features like social media integration to promote a connected college experience for Rio Salado’s 41,000 online students.

According to Rio Salado College Vice President of Information Services Edward Kelty, the recently released version brings significant changes to the user interface including a more current design, streamlined navigation and integrated help screens.

"This time around we’re making a lot of very visible changes," Kelty said. "We're adding better personalization and incorporating more social elements into the system. We’re updating the user interface so it’s smoother and easier to understand, and of course we’re all very excited about the new look."

RioLearn is an LMS platform like Blackboard or Moodle, but in order to support the unique features offered by Rio Salado College, the program had to be custom built from the ground up.

"Ideally we want to build applications only when we can't find something that meets the majority of our needs," Kelty said. "RioLearn exists because no available product would do the job."

In addition to not being able to support Rio Salado's block calendar system and Monday starts, standard LMS platforms are often incompatible with the one-course-many-sections model of course development in place at the college.

"RioLearn allows for a more efficient automated course maintenance system," Kelty said. "When Rio’s faculty and instructional design team create a course, the system then automatically generates the course website and provisions all student and faculty access.”

“In a traditional LMS, typically each teacher has to create and enter their own content and then manually initiate rolling it forward each semester.  RioLearn has completely automated the process of rolling course materials forward from one semester to another,” Kelty said.

Rio Salado College, recognized as a pioneer in distance learning, began offering online courses in 1996. The RioLearn environment was introduced in 2004, and by 2006 the school had converted a majority of its classes to an online format.

“In 1996, there were no web editors. There were no systems. You just had to put it all together yourself," Kelty said. "It was fun and a very exciting time."

"Faculty member, Angela Ambrosia, and I taught the faculty how to write HTML so that they could create our first online classes," Kelty said. “The first 16 to 20 courses were written by hand by our faculty chairs."

The initial release of the RioLearn program was a significant milestone for Kelty and his team.

"I tell people it's like my wedding or birthday," Kelty joked. "The RioLearn version one release date was August 23 of 2004, and I'll never forget it."

"Obviously the process has been refined over the years," Kelty said. "We have a whole team of instructional designers working with the faculty chairs now.  We also have a course production and media teams that produce the content and multimedia objects to increase student learning and  engagement.”

Because innovation is such an essential part of the Rio Salado College culture, RioLearn was developed with an eye on the future.

Built in partnership with Microsoft and Dell, the program is both scalable and adaptable. It has been tested to support as many as 100,000 students and has the agility needed to quickly adjust to new educational products, changing legislative regulations, and advances in technology.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Back to School Student Profile: Scott Friend

Scott Friend, center, with his family.
Returning to college after a 5 year absence was an intimidating prospect for Rio Salado College student Scott Friend. Like many adults, Friend was already balancing work and family. He had his daily routine and had gotten comfortable with his lifestyle.

"I had been thinking about it for a few years, but I am pretty set in my ways," Friend said. "I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to transition back to being a student again."

With a little inspiration from his fiancé, who returned to the classroom in 2010, Friend realized that the opportunities that come with an education are well worth the time and effort.

"Kathleen set the example and really encouraged me," Friend said. "I'm not unhappy with my current job, but the idea of pursuing my dream is what led me to finally enroll."

Committing to the decision to take the next step in his education may have been a challenge for Friend, but the process of signing up for classes was very easy.

"Everything has been smooth sailing and easier than expected," Friend said. " From the initial registration to the courses themselves, the online format at Rio Salado College has been very accessible and easy to use."

Friend had never taken an online class before and was concerned about how it would work out. He was skeptical, but his retail work schedule and busy personal life didn't leave room for in-person options.

"My fiancĂ©'s two children participate in a variety of activities like scouts, orchestra and choir which keeps us running. I'm also busy with the wedding plans and my job, so I really can't afford to waste time," Friend said. "I worried about the website going down or timing out in the middle of an assignment, but I haven't had a single issue.”

Although this is his first online class, the technology has not been a problem.

“RioLearn is great. I found the course content very well laid-out and manageable. The lessons give clear direction and the instructors quickly respond by email to the few questions I've had," Friend said. "I like that I can check assignment dates and grades on my phone, and now it's even easier to navigate with the new update."
According to Friend it didn't take long to find his footing and adjust to being a student again.

"At first the courses were a little hard, but with each assignment I’m getting the swing of things again," Friend said. "I’ve found that if I give myself adequate time for the assignments, they really aren’t very difficult."

"It may sound silly, but my mind feels sharper and I feel less like I’m stuck in a rut," Friend said. "With each graded assignment I get back, I have a feeling of accomplishment. I know that with time and determination, I will finish my degree and be better prepared with the knowledge and confidence I need to reach my career goals."

Published in the Tempe Republic Aug 18, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

RSC Named "Great College to Work For"

According to a recent survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rio Salado College is one of the best colleges in the country to have as an employer.

"It's nice to be recognized for providing our employees with a great work environment," said Sharon Koberna, dean of administrative and employee services at Rio Salado. "Our goal is to create a culture in which employees look forward to their workday and are fulfilled by the  personal contributions they make to the success of the college."

The findings, released in The Chronicle's fifth annual report on the academic workplace, are based on a survey of nearly 47,000 employees at 294 colleges and universities across the nation.

"What we find, year after year in the Great Colleges survey, is that many educators and administrators, too, are thinking more critically about how to improve the cost effectiveness and workplace efficiency of their institutions. The Great Colleges program is our way of highlighting their efforts.” said Chronicle Editor Liz McMillen.

In addition to being recognized as a great college to work for, Rio Salado received Honor Roll standing along with 42 other colleges from across the nation. Honor Roll colleges have more submissions across all recognition categories.

Rio Salado received recognition based primarily on employee feedback regarding:

• Collaborative Governance
• Confidence in Senior Leadership
• Professional Development Programs
• Teaching Environment
• Respect and Appreciation
• Facilities, Workspace and Security
• Work/Life Balance

The two-part assessment process included a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff as well as an audit of demographics and workplace policies at each institution. The survey was administered and analyzed by ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work”programs.

Great Colleges to Work For is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country. For more information and to view all the results of the survey, visit The Chronicle’s Web site at

Instructors interested in teaching at Rio Salado College are encouraged to visit the faculty services website.  Additional employment opportunities can be found at or

Saturday, August 4, 2012

New Student Orientation Promotes Student Success

Rio Salado College has a new tool to help students prepare for success in an online learning environment. 
New Student Orientation (NSO101) is a free non-credit course designed with new students in mind. 
Available in an online format, the course will acquaint students with school policies and familiarize them with RioLearn, the college’s customized online learning management system.

Completing NSO101 is an important step in a new 14-step checklist designed to help degree and certificate seeking students get started at Rio Salado.

The checklist can be found on the new Start at Rio website and helps streamline the process for anyone who wants to take the next step in their education.

Monica Martinez, a student in the Teacher in Residence Program at Rio Salado College, said she likes the convenience that the new orientation will provide.
“It’s always great to have everything you need in one place," Martinez said. "It makes everything easier and saves time.”

The checklist walks new students through the process of creating an account, exploring program options, researching funding options and, of course, registration.

The checklist and NSO 101 course are both intended to help students feel comfortable with the online learning environment so that they can navigate the new student experience with confidence.

“While students are learning valuable information such as available resources, tips for success, and college policies they will also be learning how to use the learning management system their classes are taught in," said RSC Director of Advisement David Hall. “The website and orientation will provide incoming students with an overview of the steps needed to enroll and be successful in reaching their goal with Rio Salado College. “

With the introduction of the Start at Rio website and the NSO 101 class, students no longer have to search through pages and pages of an unfamiliar website or hassle with an in-person orientation.
Tailored for non-traditional online students, NSO101 serves the same purpose as in-person orientation offered on more traditional campuses.

Instead of arranging for child care, driving across town, finding parking, wandering around campus for 30 minutes trying to find the auditorium and then sitting through a PowerPoint presentation, everything that’s needed to get started at Rio is in a simple, easy to use checklist.

Here’s what Rio Salado College students can expect to learn about in the two hour course:
  • Available resources including career counseling, advisement, tutoring, financial aid and library services.
  • College policies, class withdrawal procedures, and financial aid and other important deadlines. 
  • How to prepare for a successful college experience, be responsible and efficiently manage time.
  • How to navigate the RioLearn environment, manage online assignments, and keep track of deadlines 

Written by Ryan Bawek PR intern and Patricia Moore PR assistant
Published in the Tempe Republic August 4th

Thursday, August 2, 2012

RioLearn Upgrade Goes Live

The latest edition of RioLearn, Rio Salado College's proprietary learning management system, goes live today (August 2). The new version includes a variety of look-and-feel updates intended to create a more intuitive user experience including:
  • Streamlined navigation 
  • Improved gradebook, calendar and personal information management 
  • Context-specific pop-up help screens 
  • Single sign-on access to the Rio Salado Library, RioLounge, and Electronic Student File (ESF) 
  • Integrated college news, alerts, and social networking
Learn more about the new features by visiting the Rio Salado College website or search #RioLearn on Twitter. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Early Childhood Education Initiative Receives Grant

Rio Salado College’s Early Childhood Education program has received a $311,000 grant from First Things First South Phoenix Region for its Arizona Center for Early Childhood Management (AZCECM) project.

“The goal of AZCECM is to advance the quality of care and education for Arizona’s children by enhancing the administrative skills of individuals who operate early childhood programs,” said Tina LeBaron, grants coordinator at Rio Salado.

There are two components to AZCECM: the Arizona Director’s Academy for center-based program administrators and the Family Child Care Management Academy for family child care providers.

As part of the grant, 30 childcare professionals are being recruited to participate in one of the academy programs.  Participants will receive tuition and book vouchers for the nine credits offered during the 12-month program, peer-to-peer mentoring, conference registrations and coaching services.

Coaches will work with participants to create an individual professional development plan to establish education and career goals.

Through the academies, participants will receive training in management practices, administration, leadership, and relationship-building skills.

“Effective management skills are a key component for the implementation of high quality, developmentally appropriate early care and education programs,” LeBaron said.

After the completion of the initial 12 months, participants will have the option of completing a certificate or degree through Rio Salado’s Early Childhood Education program.

For more information about the AZCECM project contact Rio Salado College at (480) 417-8580 or

First Things First
First Things First was created in 2006, when Arizona voters—through Proposition 203 ballot initiative—decided to set aside 80 cents from each pack of cigarettes sold in order to fund the expansion of education and health programs for children 5 years and younger.  Under the terms of the proposition, decisions about how to best use the funds are made on a per-region basis by 31 councils made up of local leaders. The statewide board—which has final approval of the councils’ recommendations—is responsible for ensuring that the funds are used on programs proven to work at improving outcomes for children.