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Ten Things We Heard at the Innovations Conference

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) recently attended the League of Innovations’ annual conference, held online for the first time.  (Conference trivia: last year’s Innovations conference was held in-person in Seattle in early March just as the pandemic was starting its spread.)  This year, safely and socially distanced via Zoom, CTC staff delivered two virtual breakout sessions on successfully employing the BILT model to energize employer relationships and developing and sustaining a community of practice like the Convergence College Network (CCN) .  As always, aside from the work done presenting, the CTC also attended numerous breakout sessions and keynote addresses.

  1. A recent study of over 1000 high school graduates in two major cities revealed that while many have positive opinions of technical careers, few are actually pursuing technical education. This mismatch may be driven by Career and Technical Education stereotypes, a lack of overall interest in CTE careers, or a lack of awareness of CTE careers. Some colleges may also be offering more technical classes (and producing more technical graduates) than are needed by the local marketplace.
  2. More and more colleges may soon adopt a hy-flex format in which students have the continuous option to choose how they will attend class: in person, synchronously online, or asynchronously later. Every day, in other words, students have the option of how they will attend the class.
  3. The pandemic has encouraged widespread “academic compassion” (loaner laptops, late withdrawals, final exam alternative) across community colleges because everyone is suffering through the COVID crisis. But, after the pandemic ebbs, many students will still be going through personal crises of their own. Will faculty and administrators continue to feel the same degree of academic compassion?
  4. Over 60 session attendees responded to the online question “What changes will you champion most for students post-pandemic?” The top five ranked responses in order were: blended/hybrid delivery, mental health and wellness support, virtual advising and office hours, student coaching, and enhanced orientation and onboarding.
  5. One way to look at effective leadership is to consider the four quadrants related to radical cando. “Ruinous empathy” glosses over direct-report problems to avoid uncomfortable conflict, “manipulative empathy” sidesteps clear direction by refusing to invest time and emotion in a direct-report, and “obnoxious aggression” takes a dictatorial “do it because I said so” approach. It’s the fourth quadrant – “radical candor” – we should aspire to; delivering direct criticism and direction with respect that shows you care, you’re honest, and you want what is best for the direct-report.
  6. Perceptions matter. Rather than call it “office hours” and close the door – with the blinds shut – to grade papers, why not call it “student hours” and leave the door open?
  7. If you wait until the end of the course to do an evaluation, the students who have dropped are long gone and you’ll never get their feedback. Instead, consider delivering a mid-term evaluation, even if it’s one the instructor develops personally.
  8. Tutoring videos make a difference.A major university added short supplemental videos to its most difficult engineering class and saw a letter grade improvement in students.
  9. One survey suggested that students who withdraw from or fail even one of those first five course attempts, their chance of graduating is cut in half.
  10. Between 25% and 50% of all community college students have experienced an adverse childhood event (ACE). New studies suggest that many classroom behaviors (excessive talking, easily distracted, restless, challenges for power) that could be labeled ADHD are actually symptoms of trauma. Traumatized students expect the worst and focus on the negative.  These behaviors are about coping and surviving, which they prioritize over learning.
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