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Whether you are new to the college experience, a seasoned WKU veteran, or a transfer student from another institution, it's important to know what to expect, and what will be expected of you.
In some cases, your CIT professors may optionally make lecture material available on-line, but these won't be the focus of the class. Lectures have their place, but they are not the best way to learn. Lectures may be used to introduce concepts, define terms, establish context, and provide tutorial instruction. Beyond that, CIT courses require the student to take active responsibility for their own learning.
You should expect your professor to provide you with a detailed outline of class activities. For traditional classes, each week you will be expected to read (both from the text and other sources), discuss issues with your professor and classmates in the online class, work on projects, and generally immerse yourself in the topic being covered. CIT On Demand classes are essentially the same except they do not include discussion components (see the On Demand website for more information, and the Course Availability link for availability).
Adult learners typically do best by doing what they are trying to learn. You can expect that many of your classes will involve lab activities and written projects. Each student in the CIT program will create their own virtual computer laboratory or be able to link their PCs to the CIT server network (see https://www.wku.edu/cit/cit_exemplars.php for excellent examples). These activities and projects may require many hours to complete.
Research has consistently shown that adults also learn better (and remember longer) if they can move their learning from passive to active. One of the most effective learning techniques is to have students formulate opinions about an issue, present those ideas, discuss/debate and defend them. So, each CIT class will have a discussion element where you will interact with your classmates and professor. You will find that you get to know your classmates really well, even though you may never physically meet them.
Finally, you may expect that your classmates will have varying backgrounds, from neophytes to industry sages. As a result, class content will also vary, from basic theory to practical hands-on experience.
How Much Time Will it Take?
A rule of thumb for college classes is that students should spend two-three hours outside of class for every hour in class. This means about three-four hours per week, per credit hour in their schedule. This is why 12 credits are considered to be a full-time load.
"What? I never spent 9 hours working outside of class all semester — much less in a week..." That might have been the case in some of your previous classes. It can't be the case in CIT. Information technology is a huge field, and employers expect students to be proficient in many different technologies and skills. You won't be able to master all of the skills that you need without investing the time into each class. Simply put: Students looking for a quick-and-easy credential will be unhappy with the CIT program.
Each CIT class will typically require regular participation throughout the week. Students will not be able to completely off-load all of their time to the weekend. Plan on spending at least 60-minutes per day per class at a minimum. The rest of the work can be completed on your schedule.
Many CIT classes will also require a variety of hands-on laboratory activities. You will likely find that these require larger blocks of uninterrupted time. It's hard to start something substantial and then work on it for an hour here and there. CIT students ultimately determine when their schedules allow this intense study time. For some it's late at night. Others like to work early in the morning. Yet others will set aside one day each week to work on their assignments. Everyone needs to discover what works best for them.
For most students, the secret to success in an on-line program of study is time management. With all of the schedule flexibility, it's sometimes easy to let things get behind. Here are some tips that our top students have passed along:
- Get a calendar or schedule book. At the beginning of each class, copy the deadlines from the syllabus into your calendar. Refer to this daily!
- Schedule time to participate in class every day. As little as 30 minutes would be fine. This helps you to stay connected with your courses.
- Create a work area where you can complete your studies. A comfortable chair, big table and good lighting are key. Get in the habit of always doing your schoolwork in this work area.
- Carve out big blocks of time for your lab activities. For most students this will be sometime during the weekend. Try to schedule yourself a minimum of four hours when you can work undisturbed. Six hours or more is even better!
- Do whatever it takes to stay on track. If you fall behind schedule it's often very difficult to get caught up. Go to bed late, get up early, turn off the TV, and let the lawn grow a little more...
Students taking CIT courses will need to have their own computers and Internet access. Using computers at a public library, workplace, or friend's house generally doesn't provide the necessary access required for success in this program.
A mixture of current computing technology (hardware), basic networking gear, class specific software (including network operating systems, development tools, etc.), and a virtual machine package will enable successful completion of most class projects. Grappling with computers in a hands-on environment will bring clarity to the concepts introduced in the text and lectures, and the experience will serve you well in the future.
Students enrolled in the CIT program will receive a significant amount of software as part of their enrollment. The CIT program has partnerships with companies such as Microsoft, VMware, and TestOut, and we are able to provide you with copies of their applications, development tools, and training materials at little or no cost. If you had to purchase these packages yourself, the retail cost would be many thousands of dollars. We think that it is important for CIT students to use the best possible tools, which is why we strive to incorporate these resources into our program.
Minimum Computing Requirements
As you may know, computer hardware is a moving target. The machine you buy today will seem old and outdated in less than a year or two. As a general rule, CIT students should own a modern PC (one that is comparable to machines available from major retailers). The following core requirements will enable successful completion of most projects in the CIT curriculum:
- Intel or AMD multi-core processor
- System Memory (8GB min, more is better, especially for virtual machines!)
- Hard Drive (bigger is better, but don't buy the largest unit in production -- cost tends to be too high. SSDs are not required)
- Dual monitors with a matching dual-head video card are recommended (two 20" monitors are sometimes cheaper and much more versatile than a single 26" monitor)
- Sound card and speakers
- Webcam (higher resolution models are much better than the $20 units)
- Current version of Windows operating system (the program can usually provide students with a copy)
- Microsoft Office (provided by the University -- see https://www.wku.edu/it/sms/microsoft_sa.php)
- DVD Recorder
- Current antivirus, firewall, and spyware protection (there are free options)
- Broadband Internet access (DSL, cable, and satellite are acceptable, dial up access is not suitable)
Note that these requirements should be considered the minimum necessary for successful study in the CIT program. Individual classes may require additional hardware or software. Class projects will be best accomplished using at least one computer dedicated to your CIT studies. Reconfiguring your main or daily-use PC is not recommended.
The primary CIT computer must be a dedicated machine that can be reconfigured, networked, and disassembled as needed to meet the requirements of each class. Many of the operating systems and software packages will require installations or configurations that may interfere with the normal operation of a daily-use, office or family machine. Trying to complete the CIT program using public library machines, computers at the office, etc. will simply not work.
All CIT students are responsible for supporting their own PCs, Internet connection, and software. CIT faculty cannot remotely troubleshoot computers, install software or deal with Internet access issues. It is recommended that students develop a relationship with a local computer repair shop and their local ISP as they begin the program.