It’s all about the “so what?” question.
This week, the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) will be hosting its annual grant review panel, called the National Visiting Committee (NVC). Convening an NVC is a requirement of any National Science Foundation grant over $750,000. The CTC’s NVC is an expert mix of community college educators, IT business leaders, and futurists.
The NVC is tasked with helping a grant achieve its goals. For the CTC, that means the NVC will offer support and guidance as needed in pursuing the grant goals of…
- improving IT programs to meet workforce needs (through programs like the Business and Industry Leadership Team that provides feedback on job skills and the Working Connections training events for IT faculty);
- increasing the number of completers in IT programs (by supporting innovative recruitment/retention programs or studying the effect of e-portfolios in post-graduation job hunts);
- creating regional hubs of community colleges, high schools, and universities (in developing strong, self-sustaining regional networks of educators and employers, the work of the CTC will continue after its funding ends);
- and expanding the reach and depth of overall dissemination (through expanding the CTC’s community of practice and doing more with digital media).
As you can see, the CTC’s plate is very full. This week, the NVC will sit down at a table in a Collin College classroom and examine everything the CTC did in 2018 – not just the events and activities, but also the impact of those events and activities. Remember, it’s not enough to host a training session. The real work comes in measuring what happens after your attendees go home. That’s answering what we call the “so what?” question – the changes and impacts that those events and activities generated. The CTC will make a presentation, the CTC’s external evaluator will make a presentation, select students from CTC-supported programs will sit on a Q&A panel, and there will be several hours of discussions and debates on whatever areas the NVC wishes to explore. All of this in an effort to address the “so what?” of the CTC.
The meeting be supplemented by a 30-page document the CTC calls the “read ahead packet,” a comprehensive almanac of 2018 highlights, packed full of data and metrics and testimonials illustrating how the grant pursued its goals. For all of those blog readers who spend countless hours answering CTC event surveys or filling out the “CCN Yearly Report,” this is where all of those numbers pay off. Twelve months of data distilled down to this single two-day meeting.
And so, after considering all of the CTC’s effort in 2018, the NVC will offer suggestions on how to make improvements to better attain the grant goals. The NVC will also make formal commendations on the things the CTC grant did well. All of that feedback – which will be delivered informally at the end of the meeting – will go into a formal document that is attached to the annual report the CTC will submit to the National Science Foundation this summer. The NVC meeting, then, is one of the most important meetings the CTC ever holds.
It’s a big deal.