Tops in Technology

For the third consecutive year, the Center for Digital Education and Converge Online have ranked Montgomery County Community College among the top-rated community colleges in the country for its use of technology to support and enhance teaching and learning.

To celebrate this accomplishment, the College will host two Technology Block Parties from 12:30-2 p.m. on Nov. 9 in the Advanced Technology Center Portal at the Central Campus in Blue Bell and on Nov. 11 in the South Hall Lobby at the West Campus in Pottstown. The events are free and are open to all members of the College and community.

The College received an A+, the highest grade possible, in the 2010 national Digital Community Colleges Survey. The sixth annual survey examines community colleges’ use of technology to enhance the student experience and increase educator effectiveness.

The survey also looked at the technological tools that colleges have in place to increase convenience and provide alternative learning options. Examples include online registration, distance learning, tutoring and advisory services. Technology training for students and faculty and Web 2.0 social and collaborative capabilities were also key indicators of success.

Approximately 1,000 community colleges were invited to participate, and winners were grouped into three categories based on student population. Montgomery County Community College is placed in the large college category, with close to 22,000 students annually.

One reason the College consistently ranks nationally in its use of technology is its “data culture” and the use of technology to help administrators and faculty make informed decisions that support student learning.

“The College’s data-informed decision making is essential for continuous improvement because, unless you have a system-wide structure that collects data, analyzes it, and makes adjustments on a routine basis, you really don’t know if you’re achieving your mission,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, President. “By adapting national best practices, we are constantly assessing ourselves, always trying to make our student outcomes better using technology as a tool to focus on teaching and learning.”

For example, by using tools, such as iStrategy, academic deans and department coordinators are able to create “what if” scenarios and can quickly be informed on enrollment trends, student demographics and other criteria that can help them make strategic decisions.

According to the College’s Vice President of Information Technology Celeste Schwartz, technology is integrated holistically into the strategic plan and is not divided by administrative and academic uses.

“The priorities of the College’s Information Technology team are clear. We focus on student success and on supporting our technology users,” she said. “Technology is used for process improvement and streamlining things so that the College can focus on educating students.”

In the classroom, faculty integrate technology into all aspects of the curriculum. One hundred percent of the College’s classrooms are equipped with SMART technology, which includes a computer, projector, DVD player, speakers, and a touch SMART board that enables instructors to annotate and store that data on the screen. Faculty members also use interactive classroom technologies, such as clickers and game show technology, to ensure that students interact with each other and with the subject matter to improve learning.

Other technology highlights include the implementation of a student-alert system that tracks attendance and connects the student with an appropriate interventions; the expansion of a wireless pager system and a call center further enhance student success by reducing the amount of time students spend standing in line or on hold; the use of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and You-Tube to engage students and the community in the learning process; the availability of wireless Internet access over 100 percent of both of the College’s campuses; and the ability of students and the general public to download hundreds of academic and student-produced podcasts on Apple’s iTunes U.

~ by Alana J. Mauger

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