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July Was Busy for the CTC

Your National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) staff just closed the book on one of its busiest three-week stretches, which is the main reason our weekly blog has been so often dark this summer. We are exhausted!

* In-person Summer Working Connections, July 10-14 – By now we all surely know that annual Working Connections events offer cutting-edge, cost-effective professional development opportunities to current community college IT faculty that’s typically only available through expensive commercial training. The goal is for attendees to add this content into their home programs as soon as possible, either as a new course or as a supplement to an existing course.

The July 2023 edition of Summer Working Connections welcomed 76 attendees from 46 schools across 16 states. Twenty-five – that’s 33% – were first-time Working Connections attendees. This group enrolled in one of seven tracks that included “AI Awareness and Essentials” (the most popular track with the highest attendance), “AWS Cloud Practitioner,” “Azure Fundamentals,” “Big Data Analytics and Visualization,” “Foundations of Designing and Building the Converged Internet of Things” (which featured an impressive array of classroom hardware and required two days of prep by the instructors), and “Splunk Security Essentials.” We also offered again the special non-technical “Leadership Academy” that taught attendees how to better engage employers, how to use EQ tools to improve communication and collaboration, and how to find personal and professional success using strategies to transition to a “4.0” world.

* Online Summer Working Connections, July 17-21 – For the first time, the CTC hosted two weeks of Working Connections. Because in a post-COVID world, the appetite for virtual training has proven to be so huge, the CTC decided to program an entirely separate set of tracks for an all-online week. [Note that the 2020 and 2021 Working Connections events were delivered all online and the 2022 Working Connections offered a handful of online tracks alongside the in-person tracks.] And so this special, all-online second week of Summer Working Connections welcomed 102 attendees from 66 schools across 21 states. Thirty-three – that’s 32% – were first-time Working Connections attendees. Taken all together, that’s 178 seats filed across two weeks. Wow. Note that 19 attendees (five of them first-timers) fully committed and enrolled in both weeks. The five online tracks included “AWS Academy Cloud Architecting,” “Cyber Buffet,” “The Data Science House We BILT,” “IT Essentials,” and “Security+.”

* CCN quarterly dinner meeting, July 12 – The CTC’s IT faculty community of practice, known as the Convergence College Network (CCN), typically convenes each July in conjunction with Summer Working Connections since so many CCN members are in town for that training event. In the past, this meeting ran on the Sunday before Working Connections started on Monday. But this year, the meeting was shifted to Wednesday evening. Fifty-eight CCN faculty and administrators attended in person, with another 14 Zooming in, from a total of 44 schools across the country. Attendees heard grant updates, a retrospective of the CCN’s illustrious history, then a special presentation on classroom AI tools from Debasis Bhattacharya from Maui College. The evening ended with the customary “family photo” (see below) taken in the atrium of Collin College’s beautiful new IT Center on the Frisco campus. The CCN consists of 100 colleges from 32 states. At press time, at least two other colleges were looking to join.

Group photo of the "CCN" community attendees, taken in the atrium of Collin College's IT Center in Frisco - attendees stood on the atrium steps.

* HITEC conference, July 24-27 in Atlanta – As always, the CTC had a huge presence at the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HITEC), which is a national conference on advanced technological education where secondary and postsecondary educators, counselors, industry professionals, trade organizations, and technicians can update their knowledge and skills.

On Monday, the CTC hosted a “BILT for the Future: How to Keep Looking Ahead So Curriculum Stays Current with Workforce Needs” afternoon pre-conference workshop for 28 attendees. Explaining the Business and Industry Leadership Team (“BILT”) model is, of course, a conference staple for the CTC. The Monday workshop featured a panel of employers and educators sharing their perspective on why the BILT works – see the photo below. Attendees were also able to “test drive” the online voting process that allows employers to prioritize entry-level job skills. You can learn about the BILT model via this online webinar.

Ann Beheler moderates a panel of educators and employers at the HITEC conference in Atlanta.

On Tuesday, the CTC hosted a morning pre-conference workshop entitled “Showing Your Work: Best Practices and Strategies for Energizing Dissemination and Outreach” for 25 attendees. This was a co-presentation with content executives from the consultant company Nelly Group, LLC. The Nelly Group has worked with the CTC since 2021 to strengthen the effectiveness of its website, social media, and video platforms. Take a look at specific ways the Nelly Group helped the CTC here.

On Wednesday, it was standing room only at the CTC’s “The BILT Model: Maximizing Employer Relationships to Make Students Workforce Ready” breakout session. We hosted a whopping 67 people to hear a quick overview of the BILT model – and also view a demo of the online job skills voting process. Download a copy of the slide deck here.

Wednesday afternoon the CTC also hosted student posters from Collin College (see photo below), Florida State College at Jacksonville, and Sinclair Community College. Supporting student attendance has long been a HITEC tradition for the CTC. This year, five students presented some of their work in cybersecurity, networking, and data analytics. The posters are showcased near the exhibit hall during the reception hour to ensure plenty of engagement between our students and HITEC attendees.

Two students from Collin College pose with their poster in the HITEC conference exhibit hall.

The CTC’s HITEC adventure ended on Thursday with a breakout session entitled “Best Practices for Planning and Hosting Successful Professional Development Events” which looked at implementation strategies for faculty professional development events. The CTC had 20 attendees in the room, which was a huge turnout for the conference’s very last late afternoon slot. While the talk focused mostly on planning and hosting the popular Working Connections series that’s been running in North Texas since 2002, the best practices discussed can be applied to any size event. See the presentation slides here.

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