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Northeast State integrating technology into teaching

August 10th, 2012 3:17 am by staff report

BLOUNTVILLE -- Northeast State Community College has spent the last year evaluating and integrating technology.


Reports and surveys show 78 percent of college students believe technology improves their grades, 73 percent say they cannot study without technology, and 65 percent use cell phones to surf the Internet and check e-mail.


The college's goal is to have technology used to improve instruction and increase efficiency, staying abreast of student needs and increasing student success.


"We realize that technology is very important to today's college student, and it can be a great resource and motivator for them to learn," Northeast State President Janice Gilliam said. "Our goal is to serve their needs with technology that supports learning and functions efficiently."


The college has purchased 216 iPads for staff use during the last year and recently acquired 120 for student use this fall.


Northeast State was the first community college in the Tennessee Board of Regents system to launch its own mobile application. The free app is available for both Android and Apple devices and can be downloaded from the Android Marketplace or from the iTunes Store by searching for Northeast State.


And two of the most head-turning pieces of technology to arrive on campus this year are the virtual painter and welder, which are used in the automotive body service technology program and the welding/metal fabrication technology program, respectively.


As for devices used across all majors, tablet use among college students is expected to grow significantly in the next couple of years, and already more than 25 percent own a tablet. A recent Pearson Foundation study showed that 63 percent of students believe that tablets will replace print textbooks in the next five years.


Staffers at the college use tablets in a number of departments and offices ranging from admissions to testing services to evening and distance education.


"The primary advantage I have found for using the iPad is its portability. It allows me to take a larger portion of my office wherever I go," said Keith Young, director of Northeast State at Elizabethton. "I use the device to read and respond to e-mails, check and update my daily calendar, manage contacts, and conduct teleconference meetings via FaceTime."


"I check my iPad a couple of times during the weekend and often take care of student issues quickly," said Denise Walker, director of Testing and Counseling Services. "Keeping up with my e-mails when I am off campus also saves time when I am back in the office. I also have access to my desktop through my iPad and can keep up with other work."


To cut travel costs, the college recently installed a videoconferencing system that allows for face-to-face communication between the Blountville campus and other teaching sites. Media Services also tracks usage of the system so savings from travel and time can be calculated.


"For example, deans no longer have to travel to the main campus for all meetings," said Lana Hamilton, vice president for academic affairs.


Vice President for Information Technology Fred Lewis said the college is putting into play several software packages to help students and staff use data and information to make decisions. Students will find particular help and support with DegreeWorks and Course Signals, Lewis said.


DegreeWorks is a web-based tool that helps students and advisers monitor progress toward degree completion. The software combines degree requirements and completed coursework in an easy-to-read worksheet. Students can readily see what courses and requirements are needed to complete their degrees.


Course Signals, developed by Purdue University, is a real-time, early intervention system providing students with concrete steps toward improvement in classes where they may be in danger of failing. This improves their chances for success, lays a foundation for success in future classes, and, ultimately, improves retention and graduation rates. In addition, the system provides an automated way for instructors to reach out to students in need of help early in the semester, when they have the most opportunity to improve.


Another software system, iDashboards, provides Northeast State better access to its data to make timely decisions. According to Susan Graybeal, vice president for institutional effectiveness, the college is using the dashboards to monitor such indicators as applications, enrollment, financial information and institutional metrics. It is also being used to present information to the community in an easy-to-understand format via the Web.


Lewis also said Northeast State had finished installation and training for Argos, a software program that allows users to easily pull information from databases for use in reports and decision making. Oftentimes, information technology departments are flooded with requests about admissions, finance and other student records. Argos provides end users with a secure, cost-effective, and easy-to-use interface that speeds report production and frees IT staff for other tasks.

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