The Future is Bright: Reflections on Innovations 2013

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More than 3,600 administrators and faculty from the nation’s most creative community colleges came together in Dallas March 10 to 13 for the 15th annual Innovations Conference of the League for Innovation in the Community College, and more than a few of them heard something about next generation learning while in attendance. NGLC staff were at the front of the room for two of the sessions and in the audience for many others, watching eyes light up. If enthusiasm and awareness spreads so easily, can scaling be far behind?

The following Innovations 2013 presentations featured strategies under development and lessons being learned through the design and implementation of NGLC projects and programs:

“The Connected College,” Diana Oblinger – opening general session
EDUCAUSE president and CEO, Diana Oblinger kicked off the conference with this keynote presentation that traced the ways that new, technologically-powered approaches are making it possible for institutions to reveal, reinvent, and reset the pathways and possibilities for students. Examples she used included NGLC projects from both Wave I (Sinclair’s Student Success Plan, Cerritos’ Kaleidoscope Project, the University of Hawaii’s STAR system) and Wave IIIb (Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America).

Breaking Away: First Take on NGLC’s New Degree Program Models,” Nancy Millichap – special session
Nancy organized this introduction to NGLC’s Wave IIIb innovators around three of the elements featured in their breakthrough models: modular courses, student support, and competency approaches.

“A Low-cost Undergraduate Degree Completion for the University of Washington,” David Szatmary – forum session
Dr. Szatmary, Vice Provost of UW Educational Outreach, discussed the breakthrough model at his institution, which will offer a path to a degree in early childhood education to those who already have at least 70 college credits. Partnering with community colleges will be a key part of their strategy, and he sought input from the audience about their interests and expectations of partnering with a research university to create pathways to bachelor’s degrees for their graduates.

Sharing Building Blocks: Lessons Learned from the NGLC Collaboration Experience,” Wave I leaders of three projects serving community colleges, with Nancy Millichap – special session
Clint McElroy (Central Piedmont Community College, OSP), Stephen Acker (OhioLink, Ohio’s Scaffold to the Stars), and Kim Thanos (Cerritos College, Kaleidoscope) spoke about the outcomes of their project in terms both of the data indicating student success and of the experience of scaling their work to new campuses.

“Competency Based Bachelor’s Degree: Innovating for the 21st Century,” Ali Esmaeli and Rosemond Moore, South Texas College – forum session
Dr. Esmaeli and Ms. Moore described their partnership with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas A&M Commerce to create the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate, emphasizing the way in which the opportunity for their rapidly growing community college not only to add a new bachelor’s degree but to serve students with flat-rate tuition and a personalized learning environment.

“Leveraging Data: Improving At-Risk Student Success,” Tracy Sleep, Iowa Community College Online Consortium, and Steve Rheinschmidt, Pearson eCollege – forum session
The ICCOC has been working for nearly a decade to improve the ways in which the student advisors and the faculty at the campuses they serve are able to intervene, based on information about student activity (or the lack thereof) in the learning management system they support. The NGLC project in which they built on earlier work ended last summer; they’re continuing to study the impact of the dashboard developed during that project on student success in additional courses.

Key themes overall during the conference centered on engagement of community college students, ascertaining and meeting workforce needs, and the continuing challenge that developmental education poses for degree completion. But there were reports on possible answers as well as questions, and the voice of the student was heard both from student participants in the event and in video form in sessions and keynotes alike. We walked away from the conference inspired to continue finding the best possible answers.

To learn more about the NGLC funded projects featured in today’s post, please visit their grantee pages: Wave I and Wave IIIb