The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) manages a community of practice called the Convergence College Network (CCN). The CCN is a cohort of 45+ community colleges and universities from around the country that share best practices and receive CTC benefits and resources. The goal is to enhance the CCN’s IT programs.
Quarterly meetings are one great example of how the CCN shares. The CCN recently met on the phone to talk about – among other things – successful program strategies and innovations. The enthusiasm in these discussions is infectious; it’s always exciting to witness faculty members who might not otherwise ever meet inspire and support one another.
Here’s a sampling of some of the more interesting shared best practices.
- Cleveland Community College (North Carolina) uses a peer-review/self-review strategy with group project work in its OER “Intro to Computers” class. The school’s learning management system groups the students to avoid unintentional bias. Each student then fills out two assessments at the conclusion of the class: one to grade each team member, one to self-assess their participation in the group work. Each rubric covers the same questions covering dependability, productive group dynamics, and respectful discussion skills. Results from the two assessments are compiled for the final grade.
- Ozarks Technical Community College (Missouri) manages an on-campus computer repair clinic run by students. This gives students valuable hands-on work experience that includes developing important customer service skills. Students, faculty, and staff can bring their hardware to the shop for repair. There’s a flat $40 repair fee in addition to any parts costs (there is no fee if the machine can’t be fixed) And while every “customer” signs a waiver to protect the students, if a student breaks a machine, the repair shop covers the cost. All proceeds from the clinic fund a scholarship for the top student in the desktop hardware class. Ozarks treats the clinic as a traditional internship or as an IT co-op in lieu of someone finding an outside internship.
- Sinclair Community College (Ohio) employs LinkedIn to help connect with students and to help create bonds among students. The school develops new LinkedIn groups each year when students first enroll, then uses those groups to send messages and share resources. In a traditional CCNA first-semester class, for example, part of each student’s first assignment is to create a LinkedIn account and join their cohort group. Students get points for signing up and joining the LinkedIn group.
- Houston Community College (Texas), like Cleveland, also tries to make students work in groups as often as possible to build and strengthen teamwork “soft skills.” In one class, each group was asked to spend the semester becoming an industry expert in an IT topic of their choosing. Then it was up to them at the end of the semester to successfully communicate their expertise to the rest of the class. This formal presentation, in which the groups grade one another, took the place of a final exam. They’re not evaluating the content of the presentations, just the performance (technical skills, presentation skills, how they interacted with the rest of the group, non-verbal communication, etc). This format gives everyone concrete feedback on their presentation skills and fosters good class discussions about what worked and what didn’t. This class discussion allows the instructor to offer his influence on how the groups grade each other.
- Florida State College at Jacksonville adopted the 4DX (Four Disciplines of Execution) system to guide administrative decisions. 4DX is a variation on Six Sigma, asking the organization to set clear goals to work towards meeting. Florida State College at Jacksonville used 4DX to look at the number of students who enrolled for Fall 2015 but hadn’t yet enrolled for Spring 2016, then using the finding to develop strategies to get those missing students back in the classroom. Faculty members now meet once a week to discuss the status of their 4DX “WIGs” (Wildly Important Goals) to talk about challenges and progress. It’s a way to get everyone on the same page with shared organizational goals. See also, The 4 Disciplines of Execution on Amazon.
- Sierra College (California) addresses a need for stronger “soft skills” by developing a Computer Support Technician certificate. In addition to an A+ course, this certificate also includes a business communication class and a customer service/human relations class. Technical skills are not enough; students need to learn how to work with customers (whether they’re external or internal). The customer service class explores – among other topics – the service culture, verbal and non-verbal communication skills, customer-focused behavior, handling “service breakdowns,” and encouraging customer loyalty. This Computer Support Technician model is being adopted state-wide in California.