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Perspectives and Successes from IT Administrators

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) spends a lot of time working with IT faculty, whether through professional development events like Working Connections or through quarterly meetings with the 60 schools in the Convergence College Network (CCN) that features best practice sharing. But twice a year, the CTC allows administrators the opportunity to get more involved.   Once in the spring and once in the fall, the CTC hosts a 60-minute web meeting specifically for CCN administrators.  Faculty members are welcome to attend, but the primary purpose of these “CCN Administrator” meetings is to discuss challenges and successes from the higher-level perspective of department chairs, deans, and provosts.

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At the last two “CCN Administrator” meetings, a total of 22 administrators participated. Below is a summary of some of those discussions:

  • Remember that students are often dealing with more than just academic challenges.  One community college notices students struggle to stay motivated or overestimate their capacity to go to school and maintain a family.  To help, the school created a “curriculum checklist” that clearly guides students step by step on the completion pathway.  Counselors no longer have to scribble notes on a legal pad for the student.  An official checklist form also reassures the student that he/she isn’t alone – others need support with the same checklist form.
  • Smaller class sizes and lower enrollments led one community college to stagger classes.  Rather than offer the same classes every semester that struggle to fill, the school offers a different slate of classes in the fall and in the spring.  The downside, of course, is that if a student fails, he/she has to wait longer to retake the class and catch up.
  • One school that struggles with student motivation realized that the familiar “student engagement” strategy may be the best way to get students to stay focused and complete.  Instructors who successfully engage with the students and make a special personal connection tend to produce more successful students.  (In some cases, students will follow that instructor all the way through the program.)  This is a variation on the popular trend of “intrusive advising” – active, persistent outreach and mentoring by faculty and counselors to check on a student’s progress and nurture his/her well-being.  That is, rather than worry only about classroom performance, the school takes an interest in understanding and supporting the student’s entire family, home, and work situations.
  • One community college noticed more of a push in community colleges to get students to transfer to a four-year university rather than pursue career education.  One possible way to overcome that is to widely publicize entry-level salaries for IT jobs in marketing materials.  Students often respond to salary specifics.  The CTC, in fact, developed a customizable “completion flyer” for schools to use to better educate students about a career in IT.Another school shared that they often get a recruiting firm executive to visit an entry-level class to talk about opportunities and salaries in the IT industry.   Still another resource is the “Occupational Outlooks” section of the Department of Labor website.
  • Using the CTC’s “Business and Industry Leadership Team” (BILT) model can reveal truths about the workforce market you didn’t know.  One school recently started working with an active BILT and asked the members about the entry-level job skills they wanted in graduates.  The school came to realize that IT employers in their area wanted artistic skills as well as technical skills.  This unexpected revelation led the school to redesign its curriculum to better meet those needs.
  • It remains a challenge to effectively track graduates after they leave school and enter the workforce.  One school hires retirees to call all alumni six months after graduation to learn about their current job; their response rate is about 84%.  Another school starts selling students early in the program on the need to participate in post-graduation surveys; the point is to emphasize the value of career information to the students who come after them.  Other schools use social media tools (Facebook, LinkedIn) to track graduates.  And still another community college uses old-fashioned postcards, asking: “Are you employed in your field of study?” “What is your wage?” and “How long have you been employed?”  The postcard response rate is about 20%.
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