In the current economic climate, where budget cuts and increasing enrollments are daily headlines, students and colleges alike continue to face challenging financial times. Additionally, a growing number of students no longer fit within the “traditional student” profile and are juggling competing priorities such as jobs, families, and financial stress.
For thousands of increasingly diverse students who need an affordable and flexible postsecondary education, community colleges are the best choice. In fact, community colleges today enroll 45 percent of all college students—almost 7 million students.
Getting more students ready for and through college is vital to maintaining the global competitiveness of our nation and the well-being of our citizens. Just 12 percent of young people who enroll in college complete an associate degree by age 26. Among low-income students, only about 14 percent earn an associate degree. At the same time, it is predicted that by 2018, 63 percent of all U.S. jobs will require some sort of postsecondary education.
Unfortunately, creating access to college is not enough to help students achieve an education and a degree with value in the workforce. And we can’t expect to increase student achievement by doing the same things we have always done.
Students and instructors need new, flexible tools and systems that can help engage students in deep and relevant learning that leads to better outcomes for students, and ultimately success in careers and in life. Through the innovative and committed work of many people and institutions, we are now beginning to see the promise of technology as a way to transform education. When applied well, technology can amplify the impact of great instructors, energize students and connect them to the information and support they need faster than ever, and help create more empowering learning environments.
The League for Innovation in the Community College has long been an organization focused on catalyzing the community college movement, and working with experts in the field to create meaningful change in students’ lives. Last year, the League joined the Next Generation Learning Challenges as a founding partner to deepen our commitment to this work. This initiative is aimed at identifying and helping expand the most promising programs and tools that can help students prepare for and complete college in the U.S.
Next Generation Learning Challenges provides investment capital to organizations, institutions, and businesses through waves of funding every six to 12 months — each focusing on a targeted set of challenges. The first wave of funding, announced earlier this year, is focused on supporting postsecondary students. Many of the recipients of grant funding are community colleges which are working to identify and develop technology tools that can help community colleges serve more students better and smarter, despite tremendous budget and enrollment pressures.
Among the field of community colleges leading the charge to expand promising technology-enabled learning tools to more students, three stand out as particularly compelling examples of how the thoughtful use of technology can make a big impact on students.
Sinclair Community College (Ohio) uses a program called Student Success Plan Software to improve outcomes for its at-risk students. The program provides tools and information to instructors that can help them manage student relationships more efficiently, and allow them to identify and provide supports for at-risk students more quickly and efficiently. Current funding from the Next Generation Learning Challenges is enabling this project to become open source, which will allow the college to share the program with others schools, expanding it to serve many more students.
The Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC) provides analytic information to academic advisers about students who are presenting risks or failures in their coursework. Over the past five years, the consortium has seen online course completion rates of at-risk students increase by nine percent. This modest but meaningful improvement shows promise for replication across institutions, and an even greater impact.
Chattanooga State Community College and City Colleges of Chicago are expanding cutting edge developmental math programs —one of the greatest challenges facing community colleges. The colleges are both using unique, modular online content that disrupts the traditional math class structure, and empowers students to learn and master math at their own pace. These programs also allow instructors to focus their support for students where they need it most, and increase one-on-one assistance for students who need it most. Both colleges are focused on increasing college completion for low-income and minority students.
Understanding the need to stay laser-focused on the importance of high quality instruction, whether virtual, hybrid, or in the classrooms, technology is an increasingly important tool to help optimize learning and support student success. To these ends, the League for Innovation is excited to be working in partnership with community colleges, leading educational organizations, K-12, four-year colleges and universities, corporate leaders, and philanthropists to make a meaningful difference and bridge opportunities for student completion.
Simply put, technology is an important resource to help more college students succeed. The question now is: how can community colleges collaborate, contribute and build a community of practice that embraces technology and pushes it forward for the next generation of learners and leadership?
It’s YOUR TURN : CCW wants to hear from you!
Q: How important is technology is helping students succeed?