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PAC making it RREAL in classes

by Paul Ochoa | Pulse Staff Reporter

QEPPalo Alto College's Quality Enhancement Plan, a five-year project to improve the quality of a student’s education through Problem-Based Learning or PBL, was launched this fall with 14 professors in the first cohort.

PBL is an educational strategy that connects a course’s concepts and content to the real world. PBL involves a group of students working together to solve a challenging problem related to a real-life experience.

Isabel Rosales, a Nursing major in a Speech class, said, "We were in groups...It was better than a lecture...I liked doing presentations because it trained you."

Students work together to analyze and research their problems and generate a workable solution.

Palo Alto College professors in the pioneer cohort include Andrew G. Borden, Math; Virginia Nelms, Math; Dale Robinson, Chemistry; Lance Sandberg, Biology; Eleanor Skelley, Biology/Chemistry; Anita Soliz, Computer Information Systems; Mary-Ellen Jacobs, English; Victoria Beckham-Wilson, History; Alba DeLeon, Art; Juan Tejeda, Music; Irene Keller, English; Penny Powers, Speech; Veronica Rosas-Tatum, Business; Mariana Scuros-Ornelas, Sociology; and Earl Ballou, Criminal Justice.

Joseph Coppola, director of Instructional Professional Development, said, "I, for one, have implemented problem-based learning in my online course. The students have mentioned that it’s very clear how it’s transferable to the real world."

The goals of the QEP, Relevance + Reflection + Engagement= Active Learning (Make it RREAL!), are to improve students' success rates in low-performing courses and to increase students' satisfaction with their learning experience at the college. The QEP also involves: Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication. Students can expect less lecture and more hands-on learning in the classroom.

"The focus is on the student...They will be given a real-world problem. It will be something complex and messy...There's not one right answer,” said Dr. Mary-Ellen Jacobs, professor of English at Palo Alto College.

The QEP was part of the college’s reaccreditation effort. Every 10 years, colleges have to be reaccredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools. SACS evaluates everything to see whether the school is worthy of awarding higher education credit.

For more information about QEP and PBL, go to and and