Dakota Digital Academy Finding Early Successes

Dakota Digital Academy Finding Early Successes

An initiative to expand digital curriculums throughout North Dakota University System (NDUS) has found some early successes at Bismarck State College (BSC).

Through its Palo Alto Networks (PAN) Academy, BSC has already trained two dozen educators in bringing computer science instruction into the K-12 classroom. According to Sara Vollmer, BSC’s dean of continuing education, BSC works with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to offer the education opportunity to teachers. It is only one of four PAN academies in the United States.

The enrollments this year were made possible due to a $5,000 Dakota Digital Academy grant, which was split into $500 scholarships for the enrolled teachers. An additional grant application has been submitted to the Department of Commerce that, if approved, would provide 50 more $500 scholarships in the future plus another $2,500 for communication and outreach.

Teachers may ultimately choose to attend the PAN boot camp each June or sign up for the courses that are offered year-round. Those courses include Cybersecurity Foundation, Network Security Fundamentals, Cloud Security Fundamentals, and Security Operations Fundamentals. Teachers can seek professional development credits for educators – sometimes referred to as graduate credit – for these courses. They are also able get the DPI Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 Computer Science and Cybersecurity Credentials.

Recently, NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott signed on to the CEOs for Computer Science (CS) initiative to update K-12 curriculum in every state to create opportunities for students to learn computer science skills. Hagerott said the local grant helped keep BSC ahead of its peers.

“BSC’s work showcases the innovation a polytechnic college brings to a region,” Hagerott said. “Having more educators equipped to teach these courses will help ensure that our students get a running start when they get to college, and ultimately, the workforce.”