Baron in the Classroom: University of Oklahoma Introduces Credited Course on Baron Systems
After several months of development and teamwork, the University of Oklahoma is now offering the first-ever fully credited college course exclusively on the use of Baron technology. “We needed to improve the lives of our undergraduates at the university studying broadcast meteorology,” said Shawn Riley, IT Specialist and Instructor at the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology. “Adding the actual software to the classroom that they would likely be using on-air one day made sense. Now we are taking it a step further by offering a class on the use and application of those systems. ”
The class—taught by Riley—will utilize VIPIR and Omni to expose students to real tools being used by broadcast meteorologists. “The systems were introduced into our classrooms before an actual course was created,” said Riley. “However, we have already had students report back and tell us that they have impressed everyone at their internships.”
Finding Baron as a Solution
Two years ago, when Riley began his career at the School of Meteorology, he was tasked with finding ways to improve the experience of students studying broadcast meteorology. Everyone in the department with a broadcast background began searching for the best solution to add real weather systems to the classroom. “After looking at all of our options and speaking to different providers, Baron was the clear choice,” said Riley. “Baron was more interested in a collaborative effort and had a genuine desire to improve the lives of our students. They want to enhance weather education.”
Heather Hope, University Relations Meteorologist at Baron, worked with OU to develop the partnership. “Baron is very excited to be working with the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma,” said Hope. “OU and Baron are both known in the field of meteorology for research, development and cutting-edge technology, which makes this partnership such a great collaboration.”
Soon after the partnership became reality, the School of Meteorology began designing an actual class to teach students the full capabilities of their new Baron systems. “Baron has given us a chance to share one of the main software packages available to on-air meteorologists,” said Riley. “We can now cover creating forecast, graphics and video in more depth.”
A Look Inside the Classroom
Practicum on Broadcast Software began its first semester in fall 2015 and limited registration to only 10 students in order to gauge interest. The class already has student commitments for spring 2016, and the list continues to grow. The enthusiasm for the class led the director of the program to make it a permanent elective in the course catalog.
“This semester we have many exciting things planned,” said Riley. “Students will be taking on five different projects where they will use live and archived data within VIPIR to generate their own forecasts. In some cases, they will be asked to use analysis tools in both VIPIR and Omni to complete a project.” Students will also learn to create graphics in Omni, use web scheduler to populate a website, and build content with the video producer software.
The class will also bring a guest instructor to review completed projects. Gary England, former Chief Meteorologist for KWTV in Oklahoma—and well-known local weather personality—will visit the class to give constructive criticism and encouragement to the future generation of broadcast meteorologists. “He’s a legend here,” said Riley. “Once he left the broadcast world he became a consulting meteorologist for the university. He’s more than happy to help. I know it means a lot to the students too.”
Preparing Students for the Future
Baron partners with universities to improve the classroom experience with up-to-date technology, exposure to on-the-job scenarios and tools to prepare them for a position in the weather industry. Partnerships with the University of North Dakota, Mississippi State University, University of South Alabama and the University of Oklahoma have provided students with the same tools weather professionals use on a daily basis, making them more confident and prepared when the step into their first position.
“For 25 years we have provided critical weather intelligence to TV stations, helping meteorologists serve their viewers with the information they need to protect lives,” said Hope. “Now, broadcast meteorology students at OU have the same technology. This will better prepare the next generation of meteorologists to provide critical information to those severely affected by weather.”
Riley is enthusiastic about the program and looks forward to seeing the evolution of the class. “Some of the best meteorologists in the world come out of the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology,” said Riley. “With our enhanced abilities from Baron, we are giving our students another leg up in the workforce—it’s an increasingly competitive market. Our students are benefiting from a more comprehensive understanding of weather data and the systems that are being used at actual TV stations. Baron is helping our students experience and convey weather information in new and exciting ways, making them more prepared for the future.”