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Report Reveals Community College Innovations, Tech Planning Priorities

The areas ripe for innovation in community colleges seem to show no limits. Schools are undertaking projects in open educational resources, mobile environments, telepresence robots and many other initiatives intended to help improve services to the campus community. Recognizing those efforts is the idea behind the annual "Digital Community College Survey," produced by the Center for Digital Education (CDE).

This year's winners, organized by size of student enrollment, have come up with ways to guide a student's college career toward a specific goal, use telepresence to serve instruction to remote locations that can't support full classes, and implement mobile services so students can get work done even when they're not in front of an instructor or computer.

The CDE also released findings from a survey on schools' priorities for the coming year, mobility strategies and other areas.

CDE Honorees

This year's first-place award for schools of 10,000 or more students was claimed by Virginia's Thomas Nelson Community College. The institution was recognized for Navigate, an online platform from EAB that guides students through the onboarding process, choosing majors, picking classes, creating a "best-fit" schedule and keeping them on track with what they need to do and when they need to do it.

In the category of schools with enrollment between 5,000 and 10,000 students, Virginia's Lord Fairfax Community College earned the top spot. Recently, the school implemented Zoom, a videoconferencing service for handling lecture capture and recording, digital whiteboarding and remote connections for students located anywhere. The adoption of the software has provided a "significant" cost savings and helped the college reach beyond its state borders, according to CIO Richie Crim. For example, the school recently used the system to conduct an interview with an instructor candidate in Guam. The system also works with a remote-controlled teleconferencing robot that interacts with students to better engage them. This is the fourth year the college has won the award for some form of innovation.

Among schools smaller than 5,000 students, Carl Sandburg College in Illinois received first-place recognition for its ongoing work in helping faculty adopt open educational resources for courses as well as including mobile options for many student services.

Survey Results

The latest "Digital Community Colleges" survey found that mobile device and app support was the top priority among respondents. That was followed in rank order by:

  • Website redesign and updates;
  • Cybersecurity tools and testing;
  • Digital content and curriculum; and
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC).

In mobility strategy, more than half of colleges reported offering professional development for teachers on how to use mobile apps for instruction (54 percent) and piloting the use of mobile devices in classrooms (53 percent). Nearly four in 10 schools (39 percent) said they have a strategy in place for the use of mobile devices. And more than a quarter of survey participants (28 percent) said their colleges offer professional development or have put policies in place regarding how to protect student privacy when using apps.

While nearly all colleges (91 percent) said they provide professional development on how to integrate tech into curriculum and instructional practices, only 28 percent "mandate" ongoing technology-based training or require attendance "multiple times a year."

A full six in 10 schools (62 percent) said they've developed and published social media policies, an increase of 16 percent over last year. A similar number (58 percent) of those policies address the "appropriate" online conduct of users with smartphones or other mobile devices in the classroom.

A majority of respondents (51 percent) have begun taking the potential of Internet of Things (IoT) under consideration as part of their planning.

While DR and BC showed up in the top five areas of concern for community colleges in the survey, most have taken major steps to preserve institutional data. Seventy-nine percent have data storage redundancies in place off-site; 77 percent have tested their back-ups with "successful results"; and 51 percent have begun including "cyber disruptions" in their crisis management plans.

The complete list of 51 community college winners as well as more complete survey results are available on the center's website here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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