Our Mission

The National Convergence Technology Center was established to meet the growing need for skilled specialists in the area of Convergence Technology and Home Technology Integration.

The CTC pulls together the strengths of regional and national educational institutions and business and industry partners to create a pool of qualified convergence technicians who can design, build, test, secure and troubleshoot communication infrastructure and devices in the convergence technology arena, both for enterprise and home markets.

The National Convergence Technology Center is funded by the National Science Foundation. As an ATE National Center of Excellence, the CTC has built upon its solid network of partner and mentored colleges, whose number and reach has grown since 2004, to address emerging converged technologies and to assist colleges across the nation to implement high-demand convergence degree and certificate programs.

 

CTC Growth and Outreach Tree

Tree Illustration by Mark Dempsey, January 2017.

Goals

This center has four primary goals.

REVISE FOR THE NEW GRANT


Goal 1. Program improvement to meet workforce needs:
Objective A:Build on the CTC’s BILT Team “best-in-class” model (BILT) to create consistent regional and local BILTs mentored by the national BILT group to 1) validate emerging trends via annual KSA analysis so that courses/programs can be updated aligning to workforce needs, 2) create projects/case studies to teach business relevance, 3) evaluate capstone courses, 4) provide internships/externships, some virtual, and 5) provide speakers for classes/training events on emerging topics.
Objective B: Update curriculum based on feedback from the BILT’s annual job skills analysis, ensuring coverage of all pertinent IT technologies. Curriculum will be made available through online dissemination, webinars, and remote (virtual) labs.
Objective C: Offer regular workshops and professional development events on emerging convergence technology and pedagogy topics for IT faculty, including Winter and Summer Working Connections, regional workshops, and online webinars.


Goal 2. Increase the number of degree/certificate completers ready to meet workforce needs:
Objective A: Leverage “Diversity Summit” best practices as established by national leaders in recruitment/retention/completion for underrepresented populations to persuade school administrators to institutionalize the successful strategies. Publish and disseminate successful “Diversity Summit” implementation plans, which will be continuously evaluated and adjusted to maximize student impact.
Objective B: Develop student portfolio methodology to determine effect on hiring post-completion. This includes gathering research data to develop student portfolio models scalable for implementation by community colleges through surveys and interviews, creating annual webinars to teach the development of student portfolios, implementing student portfolios at partner colleges and CCN colleges, and finally tracking impact through surveys and interviews.
Objective C: Use innovative programs to increase completion. This includes both offering the University of North Texas’ Bachelor of Arts in IT (BA-IT) courses online to reach students across the country using an innovative low-cost model and also establishing more stackable certificates to enable incumbent workers and others to grow skills in new technologies.


Goal 3. Invigorate and create new regional-hubs that adopt and adapt IT convergence programs to increase number of prepared faculty and employable IT graduates.
Objective A: Establish regional hubs of high schools, community colleges and universities to strengthen programs and articulation paths BILTs, disseminate new curriculum, and apply for project grants. To help with that effort, regional Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) groups will be established, each mentored by National BILT members, to work with institutions in region.
Objective B: Create a CCN-style community of high schools and college/university networks within the regional hubs, using CTC best practice models and support for implementation of processes, curriculum, and articulation agreements.
Objective C: Support faculty professional development events, modeled after Working Connections, within the regional hubs


Goal 4. Capacity Building/Dissemination:
Objective A: Deepen the work of the CCN to enhance existing IT programs to show increased completions and successful placements. This includes more training for CCN member schools using materials developed in the “Leadership Academy,” including the BILT process and recruitment/retention skills. More universities and a new high school level of CCN participants will be added within the CCN regions to bolster creation of 2+2+2 pathways with online meetings, training, and webinars.
Objective B: Function as a national distribution center to disseminate all processes, curriculum and the mentoring processes through webinars, through the CTC and ATE Central website, and by presenting at conferences and publishing white papers.



Accomplishments

This list below provides both accomplishments from the National CTC’s first ATE grant and notes regarding plans for the renewal ATE grant.

1. Program improvement to meet workforce needs:

  • Established the National Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT), a group of IT industry thought leaders, who forecast market needs and provide industry trends on a national level to assist mentored colleges. Since 2012, over 40 different companies have been a part of the BILT and provided essential IT curriculum feedback and guidance.
  • Co-sponsored the annual regional “Cloud and Emerging Convergence Summit” conference (2012-2014) that exposed a diverse audience of educators to the work of the National CTC. One of the conference’s concurrent tracks was programmed by the National CTC, allowing representatives from its mentored colleges to offer best-practices presentations.
  • Updated curriculum every year by asking the BILT to analyze current knowledge, skills, and abilities lists for convergence classes, insuring the content remained relevant and up-to-date. As of 2017, the updated list recommended 17 IT knowledge areas and 5 IT certificates.
  • Hosted professional training events called “Working Connections IT Faculty Development Institute.” These annual events (three days in December, five days in July) allow IT educators from around the country to learn in-depth a specific topic they can then teach at their home school. Working Connections has reached over 700 educators since 2002. In the last five years alone, Working Connections training has directly led to the creation of over 130 new degrees, certificates, specializations, or courses and impacted over 29,800 students and faculty members.
  • Assisted the expansion of the five-day summer Working Connections event to other regions: South (Florida – 2013-2017) and North (Michigan – 2013, 2017; Wisconsin – 2014). The National CTC provided best practice documents regarding event implementation and an "instructor bureau" list of Working Connections trainer candidates.
  • Created the “Diversity Summit” pilot that trained faculty, administrators, and counselors from nine institutions on best practices for recruiting and retaining under-served populations, then provided support for those nine teams to implement a customized diversity strategy. The plans were designed to measure enrollment data so that the teams could persuade their administrators to “institutionalize” the successful strategies long-term.

Going forward, the National CTC will convene special BILTs to explore the intersection of IT and biotechnology and the intersection of IT and manufacturing to develop a list of entry-level knowledge, skills, and abilities. The National CTC will also increase the number of its professional development by helping its seven regional “hub” design and present special training events.

 

2. Provide access for technology-enabled instructional support systems to assist colleges in launching convergence programs:

  • Provided more and more virtual labs that allow students to complete labs anytime, anyplace 24-7 so long as they have internet access. Since 2016, over 2000 students from CCN member schools have been able to take advantage of this service.
  • Implemented a pilot virtual internship/externship that gave students the opportunity to present capstone project solutions to a “jury” of industry executives and simulate a real-world business environment. UPDATE? Who else has done this?

 

3. Increase the number of degree/certificate completers ready to meet workforce needs:

  • Developed more “stackable certificates,” smaller collections of classes that allow schools to align certificates to degrees, to better quantify “completers,” and to provide students the skills that are most in-demand. These smaller certificates “stack” to a degree.
  • • Continued transferring students to the BA in Information Technology at the University of North Texas. This program continues to show climbing enrollment, increasing from 42 in its inaugural semester in Fall 2008 to 153 students in Fall 2016. The program is ABET accredited through 2021. To further broaden the reach, UNT is a transition of the BAIT degree to an online format and a network of “mentored universities” to more seamlessly transfer two-year convergence students to its four-year program.

During the renewal grant period, the National CTC will develop – as directed by its BILT group – student portfolio methodology to determine how IT portfolios that concretely demonstrate student know-how might help graduates get hired.

 

4. Capacity Building: Function as a Regional Distribution Center.

  • Mentored 60 colleges from 23 states around the country in a “community of practice” that evaluates and updates their programs, creates their business teams, modifies/created degree and certificate programs, recruits students. This group meets quarterly, three times on the phone and once in person to deliver updates on their programs’ progress or presentations detailed recent challenges or successes. This group is divided into two levels tiers based on each school’s level of participation and measured by a unique “points system” that tracks annual engagement.
  • Started two new “community of practice” subgroups – one for administrators, one for four-year university faculty member – that provide a separate, bi-annual forum to discuss best practices unique to those groups.
  • Hosted regular professional development webinars on a variety of technical and pedagogical topics(STEM summer camps; micro-messaging and unconscious bias; transformations in the IT workplace; using PC repair clinics to teach soft skills; CAE2Y certification).
  • Promoted services and programs, including strategies to develop a successful BILT, through presentations and exhibition booths at the MPICT Mid-Winter Conference, League for Innovation Conference, HI TEC, STEMtech, WASTC Winter ICT Educators’ Conference, and the National Career Pathways Network conference.
  • Developed a robust set of digital platforms to disseminate program information, promote events, and increase the National CTC’s overall outreach. In addition to a traditional website, the National CTC regularly updates a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, and a LinkedIn group. The National CTC also pushes content out through a weekly blog and a monthly newsletter. Wikispaces is also an important sharing tool for events and best practices documents.
  • Participated in a special Centers Collaborative for Technical Assistance (CCTA) group that delivered best practice training from several NSF ATE centers. Since January 2015, CCTA has hosted 36 webinars reaching 1,859 people and hosted 3 special in-person convenings reaching 258 people. CCTA has created and posted online 11 best practice documents for use as references.

Going forward, grant partners will develop seven regional “hubs.” These hubs will collectively establish regional BILTs for curriculum feedback and job skills validation, develop 2+2+2 articulation pathways with local high schools and four-year universities to provide the depth of IT training recommended by CTC’s national BILT, host regional faculty training events, and apply for ATE project grants to fund programs. These hubs will expand the CTC’s “community of practice” by recruiting to the group high schools and four-year universities. These regional hubs are also intended to create a foundation for essential IT education support for that time when the National CTC’s funding period ends.