ACTC Receives Title III Grant to Enhance Student Success

Ashland Community and Technical Collegehas received a Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education not just to use new technology for classes, but to use that technology for better student success.

The Strengthening Institution Grant will provide $449,794 for the 2016-17 academic year. It is anticipated that the grant will be for five years, adding up nearly $2.5 million in total.

More and more students are taking online courses because of convenience, but many find online courses more difficult than those taken in class. ACTC grant activities will use web tools, redesigned content and support services to increase the success rate.

The grant will focus on strengthening academic programs and student support services in order to help more students succeed. A two-pronged effort will redesign courses to present content in a more easily understood format and will provide personalized help to students while they are taking those courses.

Key activities for strengthening academic programs will be to adopt high quality standards for online courses and develop a peer review system. Entry level courses that have proved challenging to many students will be redesigned as interactive, technology-supported courses for online or face-to-face instruction.

Technical program courses will be converted to hybrid courses that combine classroom meetings with online instruction. These hybrid classes require fewer trips to campus, making life easier for our commuting students, but still provide face-to-face time with the instructor and fellow students.

The redesigned courses will be supported by new facilities. Six traditionally designed classrooms will be converted to learn labs to support interactive and collaborative learning. An eLearning Faculty Emporium will provide faculty access to multimedia instructional tools and will give them training in converting technical programs courses to a hybrid format. The Emporium will give faculty the space needed to create videos, recordings and podcasts for their online courses.

An enriched learning environment and courses redesigned to support active learning will be combined with services to support individual students. Two eLearning Centers will be set up at the College Drive and Technology Drive Campuses to provide a technology-rich environment with group workstations and wireless tablets.

New services will include peer success coaches, student helpers in the eLearning Centers and computerized tools like Starfish, and Blackboard Early Warning to help advisors reach students effectively.

During this first year of the grant, well begin training the first group of faculty on the Quality Matters program, said Sara Brown, the grants eLearning Activities Coordinator. The Quality Matters program provides guidance for designing web and/or web-enhanced courses. We are building tools into the courses that will help students succeed.

We will also begin looking at courses that would benefit students by being redesigned, Brown said. These courses will provide more inclusive tools and information, removing some of the roadblocks to online learning that students often experience.

Also this year, the Faculty Emporium will be set up at the Technology Drive campus and a SMART classroom will be set up at the College Drive Campus. The college will provide development and training programs to help faculty use these new resources.

This grant is the opportunity to integrate technology into the classroom in a way that improves student learning. ACTC will submit yearly activity reports, and as long as the changes result in student improvement, the grant will be renewed for the full five years.

We expect that the results will benefit students not only in the next few years but for many years to come, Brown concluded.