RCCC named one of top 10 digital community colleges

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2016

SALISBURY — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has been named one of the 2015-2016 Top Ten Digital Community Colleges by the Center for Digital Education for its use of digital technologies to improve services for students, faculty, staff and the community at large.

It’s the second consecutive year RCCC has earned the distinction.

All community colleges in the United States are eligible for recognition. Rowan-Cabarrus was recognized for its work on mobile technology, smart classrooms and technology innovation.

“We are honored and proud to not only have made the prestigious list of honorees, but to have improved our standing from tenth to sixth place,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “Through the generous support of the Cannon Foundation, Inc., the Charles A. Cannon Charitable Trusts, and the Mariam and Robert Hayes Charitable Trust, the college was able to substantially improve the college’s information technology systems beginning in 2009.”

“We were happy to help the college rebuild its information technology infrastructure,” said William Cannon, president of the Cannon Foundation. “We are always looking to invest in initiatives that can support lasting changes and it is rewarding to see the significant difference it has made in the college’s ability to serve students.”

For instance, Rowan-Cabarrus offers online tutoring for students in many subjects 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 2015, the college provided more than 1,700 synchronous online tutoring sessions (nearly 800 hours).

“This year’s survey indicates community colleges are making great strides in using data to improve decisions, providing professional development to assist faculty in the use of technology, and creating robust online and mobile environments for their students,” said Dr. Kecia Ray, executive director for the Center for Digital Education. “Congratulations to this year’s survey winners.”

This year’s Digital Community Colleges Survey also revealed insights about community colleges’ technology priorities. Colleges surveyed indicated that mobility devices/app support and website redesign are their top priorities in the coming year, followed by cybersecurity tools and testing, network infrastructure modernization, server consolidation and virtualization, and disaster recovery/business continuity.

Rowan-Cabarrus is among those currently in the process of undergoing a web redesign, a large college-wide project designed to vastly improve the college’s ability to serve prospective and current students.

“The college understands the importance of digital offerings. We will continue to listen to our students and provide the technological options they are seeking for their education,” said Spalding. “Although we have come a long way, we continue to work and enhance the services and system we provide to students.”

For example, the college rolled out a new feature on the student registration system that allows students to plan their entire academic path to graduation online. This planning helps improve their ability to forecast the classes they need to take each term and how close they are to achieving their degree, diploma, or certificate. Additionally, students’ itemized tuition bills are now easily accessible through the same platform.

The college also supports a “bring your own device” approach to technology on campus and supports students, faculty and staff with the college’s information technology help desk which is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, through a partnership with Blackboard.

Rowan-Cabarrus has created a stable, secured wireless network which allows students, faculty, and staff to be able to connect to network resources using not only college-owned devices, but personal devices like smartphones, tablets or laptops.

“We not only support enhanced websites, new online planning systems, mobile technology, campus wide wireless access, as well as many other tools, but we tie all of these items together to create a cohesive personalized and contextual experience for our students,” said Ken Ingle, chief information officer for the college. “This experience simplifies technology for our users allowing students to focus on their educational goals. We believe this is really what set us apart from others who entered.”

The Rowan-Cabarrus mobile app allows students to view their entire course load along with detailed descriptions of each class, check their final grades on the go, access Blackboard and even get personalized notifications regarding any holds on their student account.

The college is also continuing their efforts in the ever-expanding courses offered via distance education.

“A recent study indicated that distance education enrollments account for nearly all recent student growth at two-year institutions and we want to be sure we are offering courses in the methods our students want. But from the information technology side of things, we also want to make sure those offerings are supported with the right kinds of technology and customer service resources,” said Ingle.

The college also offers nine degree options that can be obtained completely online, including the transferable associate in arts and associate in science degree options. In addition, dozens of diplomas and certifications are available to be earned completely online. In fact, in 2015, over half of all enrollment was found in a class that was somehow online, whether that was a course offered completely online or a hybrid option with limited face-to-face meetings.

“The Cannon Foundation’s generous gift helped strengthen the college’s information technology infrastructure and I am indeed grateful for their support of the foundation. Their generous contribution has made education more accessible to our students,” said Carla Howell, chief officer of governance, foundation, and public relations.

Other digital initiatives include introducing online textbooks to many of the college’s core and elective classes, online job preparation and searching resources, social media and electronic emergency notifications systems.

The Center for Digital Education is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding. The center provides education and industry leaders with decision support and actionable insights to help effectively incorporate new technologies in the 21st century.