IT Community, Are You Sharing?


One of the most popular features of regular web meetings the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) hosts for its Convergence College Network (CCN) community is “member sharing.” Many CCN meetings feature group discussions or a detailed delivery of grant information and resources.  But at a recent CCN web meeting, the agenda was driven almost completely by CCN member institutions.  Prior to the meeting, the CTC solicited the CCN community for volunteers that wanted to spend four minutes sharing a new class or best practice or initiative with the rest of the group.  Ten topics were packed into a single one-hour web meeting, many of them offering perspectives and experiences unfamiliar to CTC staff. 

Here’s a rundown of some of the topics from the CCN web meeting. Each participant had four minutes.  Slides were allowed, but not required.

  • Competency-based education (CBE) does not marginalize faculty, as many fear. In fact, CBE just requires a different role for faculty. Rather than a “sage on the stage,” CBE faculty becomes a “guide on the side” to give guidance, ask probing questions, and steer the learner to discovering the outcome. CBE content is often deeper and involved more case studies and system-generated tests.
  • Raspberry Pis offer a great way to teach computer science skills to younger learners. They can be especially useful tools at summer camps for K-12 students that are important parts of recruiting strategies for IT programs.
  • Student needs can drive innovative adjustments to class formats and delivery schedules. One community college offers IT classes with a “blended option.” Students can attend in person or watch the same class remotely in real time or via a recording if they can’t attend synchronously. An entire two-year certificate can be obtained in this manner; every class in the certificate is blended.
  • Amazon Web Services Academy  offers immense benefits, such as free curriculum, free in-class webinars, and discounted exams. Students also have access to the latest AWS technology. But there are some drawbacks, including frequent updates and revisions. The Academy also provides just a small portion of the content students will need to know to get the AWS certificate.
  • An “embedded” staff member from career and employment services can add one more level of support to students and faculty in a specific program that might be missing from traditional arrangements where recruiters must handle multiple departments and disciplines from another building. This recruiter maintains frequent contact with local IT and CS employers and uses those conversations to send out a weekly email to students that lists current job openings. He also organizes two networking events and one annual career fair that’s open to the public, plus helps give students employability skills (mock interviews, resume workshops, soft skill lessons).
  • One way to address local industry’s desire for stronger soft skills is to create a separate course to boost those skills. One community college adjusted their program to offer a new “Customer Service Professional” course that replaced some older courses. Students must treat the class like a part-time job. The course teaches professionalism, offers call center-style customer service practice, workshops resumes and job interviews, and to boost collaboration skills it explores time management and personality types. Industry reports a difference in soft skill levels for those students who have gone through the course.
  • Business councils (which the CTC calls “BILTs” – Business and Industry Leadership Teams – to underscore the need for co-leadership) work best when they can help steer curriculum. Two programs reported on big changes driven by the demands of IT business leaders with specific needs in the entry-level IT workforce.

This meeting was a great reminder that much of the impact of the CCN comes from within the network, such as the moment when an instructor from Texas asked an instructor from Wisconsin for a copy of one of the classes she mentioned in passing. That’s power of sharing.  In other words, it’s not about what the CTC grant staff can provide the CCN members.  It’s also about how the CCN can help each other and share their extensive group know-how.  If your program community meetings don’t feature a “sharing” feature, consider adding it.  You won’t know what new insights and ideas your members can provide unless you ask.  Everyone will benefit.

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