When people hear the term "wireless," most immediately think of cellular phones. However, as Rend Lake College's Wireless Communications Technology curriculum has proven, there is much more to wireless communication than making a phone call.
The RLC wireless program is one of only a few like it in the U.S. Students are trained on working with cellular towers, troubleshooting and monitoring switches at towers, managing and correcting radio frequency issues and adding new cellular towers. There is also an emphasis on software training and Crisis Management Technician certification associated with wireless technology.
Open registration for Fall Semester at RLC begins Monday, April 14, and classes begin Aug. 18. As a state-wide program, students out of Rend Lake College's district can enroll in the Wireless Communications Technology program at in-district tuition rates.
The path toward a Wireless Communications Technology degree from RLC starts with an introduction to the general wireless and cellular network and the background of basic electronics. From there, students learn about radio frequency management, voice transmissions over internet protocol and how switches and towers operate. There also are 160 hours of on-the-job training required. The hands-on training provided to students through the on-the-job portion of the Wireless Communications Technology program is an invaluable tool, said Salah Shakir, Vice President of Information Technology at RLC.
In 2004, Rend Lake College was awarded its third federal Title III Strengthening Institutions grant. The award, worth approximately $1.8 million over five years, helped establish the WCT curriculum, which includes an Associate in Applied Science degree and various occupational certificates.
Wireless communication includes not only cell phones, but also satellite television, wireless Internet service and much more.
Although "wireless" is a fairly ambiguous term, in general it refers to the products and services that enable communication between two points without physical wires connecting them, according to a Wireless Industry Primer written by engineer Dave Mock. There are three things that all wireless technologies attempt to improve: the speed, quantity and distance over which information can be passed between two points.
There's immense potential in linking both people and computers in wireless networks. Wireless technologies offer tremendous efficiency to business processes, often reducing or eliminating redundant tasks that previously required dedicated human labor.
Graduates of the WCT program will be prepared to work at any cell phone or telephone company, for contractors who set up cell phone towers, for satellite providers and many more. Employment available in the field includes work as a cell site technician, telecommunications engineer, wireless systems engineer, switch maintenance technician and more.
Chris Sink, Associate Computer Networking Professor at RLC, oversees the Wireless Communications Technology curriculum.
The Wireless Communications Technology curriculum encompasses both theory and hands-on activities. Students use specific equipment and interconnect it with computers.
In developing the curriculum, officials used the DACUM (Designing A Curriculum) review process, through which they used people in the wireless industry to identify the skills needed most by students. These skills then were implemented into the instruction.
Professional certifications are available in the wireless arena, and there is a distinct possibility that such testing could be offered at RLC in the future.