If you visit the campus of Illinois Central College, you’ll find the old visitors’ lot is filled with construction equipment. A large hole is being excavated to accommodate the foundation for our new Information Technology Center. The 40,370-square-foot addition will house 14 new state-of-the-art computer labs, including two SMART classrooms; offices and meeting space; and a Cyber Café. As we’ve watched the need for trained IT professionals slow, you might wonder why we’re building.

While changes in the market and marketplace have calmed the “go-go” days of technology education, the need for IT professionals will not go away. As long as companies in our country rely on computers, databases, Internet connections, electronic media, and connectivity, IT professionals will still have a place in our economy.

This new addition to ICC provides a permanent home for our IT programs. Students who enroll in our Computer Information Systems, Data Base Administration, Microcomputer Network Specialist, Microcomputer Software Support Specialist, UNIX System Specialist, Web Technology, CISCO Certified Network Associate, Information Processing Management, Office Professional, or Microcomputer Repair programs will have classes in state-of-the-art classrooms designed specifically for their computer-related classes. And when market needs change and grow, ICC will be equipped to handle the demands of technology emergence. The new addition allows us to continue to educate IT practitioners today, while providing us with the flexibility to respond to new needs in the future. 

As important as providing an appropriate and well-designed computer center for IT learning, the new building allows ICC to release classrooms designated for IT instruction to be used for teaching other subject matter. Today, traditional college courses are finding their way into the realm of computer-assisted learning. Twenty years ago students learned about debits and credits by carefully entering facts and figures into accounting ledgers. Today, accounting programs like Excel QuickBooks supplement the old paper ledger sheet. Students in the traditional freshman composition class no longer need to create rough drafts on notebook paper in cursive writing. Instead, instructors take students to computer labs where students can complete writing assignments. The instructor can assist students as they write. Students can trade drafts electronically for peer critique. Students taking statistics courses employ student versions of statistical programs to run regressions, ANOVA, and computer descriptive stats like the standard error. Today, students can look at their class assignments via the Internet, conduct library research online, read electronic books, apply for admissions electronically, and enroll in classes from any computer terminal.

Virtually every job and career involves some computer assistance today. The new Information Technology Center not only provides a facility for training those who support the infrastructure and networks of technological resources, but it allows more access to students who will need to use computers in their everyday endeavors.

At the same time students on our campus need access to computers, Illinois Central College is signing and seeking more agreements with distance learning institutions to offer baccalaureate degree completion programs and potentially even master’s and doctoral programs. As these agreements are reached, the need for technologically advanced classrooms and services becomes more and more important. Finally, businesses have expressed an interest in creating a center for software excellence at ICC. ICC’s ability to teach and train IT professionals will support this partnership, as well as other local initiatives, including perhaps the Peoria Next undertaking.

We don’t see IT education as a dying endeavor. Instead, we see technology advancing and diffusing throughout teaching and learning. The new Information Technology Center is only one way we’re getting ready for the next wave of technological advancement. IBI