Excellence in the Info Age

Ben Franske runs a tough program—and his students run with it

Ben Franske began exploring computers in kindergarten, learning details about how they worked by the time he was in second grade. Ben spent nearly every day after school playing with computers and studying their components in his elementary school computer lab. By the 10th  grade, he had signed up for a two-year pilot Cisco Network Academy program at Edina High School. Today at age 31, Ben has a Ph.D. in Technology/Engineering Education from the University of Minnesota—and he’s full-time faculty in the Information Technology department at Inver Hills Community College. Ben is a walking external hard drive of knowledge regarding computer networking technology and security. Yet he still spends three hours a day poring over IT news sources.
“Things change and change quickly in the IT field,” Ben said. “To succeed in IT, you need to have a passion for it. You need to be very committed to lifelong learning. You will do hundreds of hours of research and never stop learning. The whole world relies on IT.”
Ben was 26 when he earned his doctorate. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Telecommunications Systems from the University of Wisconsin, Stout, specializing in Training & Human Resource Development. While an undergraduate, he worked as a program and class/lab assistant. In 2006, he received his M.Ed. in Technology Education from the U of M. He started teaching at Inver Hills in 2009.

“I want my students to learn how to learn about IT.” — Ben Franske

“I prefer teaching over research,” Ben said. “I knew Inver Hills had one of the strongest IT education departments in the nation. The college’s Cisco Networking Academy trains instructors from other two-years as well as four-year colleges and universities. Inver Hills has national name recognition in IT education.”
Ben added that the Twin Cities area is known for its superb IT market and employers know the college’s IT graduates are very well prepared. “The quality of our students is quite good,” he said. “Life is easier when your students are genuinely interested in what you’re teaching. We are focused on hands-on learning and that means we have great equipment. We are continually looking for ways to improve.”

information age n. the era in which the retrieval, management, and transmission of information, esp. by using computer technology, is a principal (commercial) activity Oxford English Dictionary

The Network Technology and Security A.A.S. degree and the Information Technology Support A.A.S. degree are the two programs Ben teaches at Inver Hills. The IT Education department was designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance for Two-Year Colleges in 2011 by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to recognize the department’s leading-edge cybersecurity curriculum.
“I set the bar very high for my students,” Ben said. “They work very hard, but they also have a lot of freedom to do what they want. I believe in learning by doing, which means my courses are very lab-oriented. The best way to do it is to do it. I also emphasize self-directed learning. I want my students to learn how to learn about IT.”

Internet users in 2012 *

  • 2.4 billion – Number of Internet users worldwide
  • 1.1 billion – Number of Internet users in Asia
  • 519 million – Number of Internet users in Europe
  • 274 million – Number of Internet users in North America
  • 255 million – Number of Internet users in Latin America/Caribbean
  • 167 million – Number of Internet users in Africa
  • 90 million – Number of Internet users in the Middle East
  • 24.3 million – Number of Internet users in Oceania/Australia.
  • 565 million – Number of Internet users in China

* From royal.pingdom.com

Ben noted that the public perception of IT is often focused on the latest and greatest devices. “I don’t like gadgets just for the sake of gadgets,” he said. “Businesses are the same way. They are looking for IT people who understand the language of their particular business. A good IT person observes the end user at work, asks questions, and designs a solution that reduces friction and lowers costs.”
The future of IT for Ben is defined by unpredictability, particularly in how that future relates to cybersecurity. Recent headlines related to data storage and protection, including the Target privacy breach, the NSA document disclosures, the ongoing Chinese cyberattacks, the HealthCare.gov rollout and potential Balkanization of the Internet underscore the importance of training talented cybersecurity experts. “In an information economy, information is a valuable commodity,” Ben said. “That means we are going to have a whole lot more targets.”
The World Wide Web, or Web, is how people access information on the Internet. The Internet itself, according to the Random House Dictionary, is “a vast computer network linking smaller computer networks worldwide (usually preceded by the). The Internet includes commercial, educational, governmental, and other networks, all of which use the same set of communications protocols.” Keeping the Internet up and running is the job of IT professionals. Having the Internet malfunction or collapse completely is a nightmare scenario for governments, businesses, organizations and individuals.
Ben Franske keeps that thought in mind when doing research or illustrating a point in class. “We teach our students how the Internet works,” he said, “and how to keep it working.”

2014 Hot Jobs: Information Technology *

  • #1 Mobile Application Development
    • Median annual salary: $106,000
  • #2 Big Data and Cloud Computing
    • Median annual salary: $10,000
  • #3 Web Developer
    • Median annual salary: $80,000

* From Randstad

Click the image below to learn more about the Cyber Aces State Championship coming to the Inver Hills campus Saturday, March 15, 2014:

Cyber Aces

For more information about the Network Technology and Security and Information Technology Support programs at Inver Hills Community College, contact:
  • Ben Franske
    Information Technology Instructor


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