NPC Spanish instructor Dr. Richard Harris in a TALON class (top left) broadcast to high schools spread throughout Northeast AZ.
NPC Spanish instructor Dr. Richard Harris in a TALON class (top left) broadcast to high schools spread throughout Northeast AZ.

Northland Pioneer College’s (NPC) reputation for proactive strategies and adaptations of distance learning technology is making waves in the U.S. and across the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, Cisco Systems officials from Norway visited the Show Low campus Sept. 26 to witness first-hand NPC’s renowned expertise in simultaneously broadcasting higher education courses to multiple college and high school classrooms across Northeastern Arizona, an area that had formerly been underserved in higher educational opportunities. Cisco Norway specializes in developing this kind of technological equipment.

The project began in 2016 when the U.S. Department of Education awarded a grant to NPC to launch the TALON (Technology to Advance Learning Outcomes at Northland) program to bring college-level courses to remote Northeastern Arizona high schools. The use of this technology was such a success, NPC replaced its aging Polycom video system in 2018 with the better and more scalable Cisco technology at its nine campus and center locations.Broadcasting high quality audio and video has always been technically challenging and cost prohibitive at scale, but Cisco developed technology that greatly reduced those barriers. In 2016, NPC began using Cisco Systems technology to broadcast college-level classes to high schools spread across Navajo and Apache counties. Students at 16 high schools now benefit from having instructors present in all of the interactive class sessions, which is rarely the case in internet distance learning. That important distinction of having a live instructor present in real time has resulted in a student pass rate of nearly 90 percent!

Now, NPC is utilizing its Cisco Systems hardware to broadcast TALON mathematics, college composition, American government, advanced Spanish classes and more to high school students in Navajo and Apache counties. Without this innovative resource, college education would be beyond the geographical grasp of many of these dual education students. Many TALON high school students say that participating in NPC’s TALON classes has broadened the way they think about their educational future and their ability to obtain a college degree.

Cisco Systems Norway inquired with Dr. Lance Ford, a Cisco education advocate in the U.S., on whom to consult with to further develop point-to-multiple point services for its clients. Without hesitation, he urged his European colleagues to consult with NPC to observe first-hand how the college is utilizing their technology in new and innovative ways. Ford was aware of NPC’s TALON program because, four years ago, he had trained NPC faculty how to use Cisco technology as the program was just getting started.

Dr. Ford said, “Since my time with the team at NPC in 2015, it’s been amazing to track the progress and expansion of the Cisco implementation on their campuses and out to the high schools. From the grant beginnings to the outreach and inter-campus communication that I see today, it’s amazing! My hat’s off to the technical team and the faculty members who have dug in to make this an exceptional program.” With the TALON grant coming to an end in the spring of 2020, NPC is searching for new partnerships to help continue and fund this highly successful program.

Curtis Stevens, coordinator of Technical Services at NPC, confirmed that Cisco “has been amazed at what NPC has been able to accomplish in distance communication. The Cisco people in Europe are really interested in our ability to provide distance learning from campus to campus.” Michael Meeks, NPC’s support center operator for TALON, said a Cisco engineer’s “jaw dropped when he learned how many classes we are running through our Cisco equipment.”

Paulina Quiñonez Gonzalez and Eivind Christensen of Cisco Norway came away equally impressed during their recent visit to the NPC Show Low campus. After meeting with technical and academic personnel and observing classes broadcasted throughout the region in person, both Cisco officials were excited by what they observed.

Gonzalez
Gonzalez

Gonzalez, a Cisco service designer, said, “It’s extremely valuable for us to be here to learn from NPC. And seeing all that you have accomplished, much more than many other colleges, is very inspiring. It’s very interesting to see the whole dynamics of the classes and the comfort and ease the professors use in teaching their courses, and how engaged the students are. My impression is that things here are moving the way that we, as a company, have intended, the way we want the equipment to work.

“Your programs are very incredible to see,” said Gonzalez. “NPC is getting results and makes the system work, and we’ll encourage our own executives to promote this even further. It’s been worth the trip, no matter the distance. It’s very inspiring because of NPC’s large coverage area and the ability to deliver classes to high schools that are so far away.”

Christensen
Christensen

Christensen, Cisco product manager, said, “It’s beautiful to see how NPC is actually using the technology as it was intended and also how it’s giving opportunities to youths in the whole region. It’s impressive. We were watching a Spanish class with the students, and I felt engaged when I saw the professor live on the screen.

“It’s wonderful to see what you have achieved here as a college, and the instructors are very energized. What I really love is that NPC is giving this opportunity to high school students who normally wouldn’t be able to obtain college credit or get this kind of education. That’s inspiring,” said Christensen.

Cisco Norway’s Marketing Department is now planning to visit the Show Low campus at a future date to make a “success story” video of NPC’s prowess with distance learning technology, according to Christensen.

Northland Pioneer College serves the residents of Navajo and Apache counties through four regional campuses and five centers with a variety of educational options for academic, career and technical and personal enrichment. NPC supports each student’s educational goals through affordable tuition, small class sizes and caring, professional instructors. For more information about NPC programs and services, visit www.npc.edu or call (800) 266-7845.