SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was named as one of the 2014-2015 Top Ten Digital Community Colleges by the Center for Digital Education for its use of digital technologies to improve services for students, faculty, staff and the community at large.
"We are honored and proud to have made the prestigious list of honorees," said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. "Through the generous support of the Cannon Foundation, Inc., the Charles A. Cannon Charitable Trusts, and the Mariam and Robert Hayes Charitable Trust, the College was able to substantially improve the College's information technology systems beginning in 2009."
"We were happy to help the College rebuild its information technology infrastructure," said William Cannon, president of The Cannon Foundation. "We are always looking to invest in initiatives that can support lasting changes and it is rewarding to see the significant difference it has made in the College's ability to serve students."
For instance, recently the College rolled out a new feature on the student's registration system that allows students to plan their entire path to graduation online. This planning helps improve their ability to forecast which classes they need to take which terms and how close they are to achieving their degree, diploma, or certificate. Additionally, students' itemized tuition bills are now easily accessible through the same platform.
"We would not be where we are today as a college without the Cannon Foundation gift bringing our information technology infrastructure up to date. I am so grateful for the support and what it has done to make education more accessible to our students," said Carla Howell, chief officer of governance, foundation, and public relations.
Online tutoring for students is available in many subjects 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, as is the College's IT help desk, through a partnership with Blackboard. The College also supports a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach to technology on campus. Rowan-Cabarrus has created a stable, secured wireless network which allows students, faculty, and staff to be able to connect to network resources using not only college-owned devices, but personal devices like smartphones, tablets or laptops. Other digital initiatives include introducing online textbooks to many of the College's core and elective classes, online job preparation and searching resources, social media and electronic emergency notifications systems.
"We not only support enhanced websites, new online planning systems, mobile technology, campus wide wireless access, as well as many other tools, but we tie all of these items together to create a cohesive personalized and contextual experience for our students," said Ken Ingle, chief information officer for the College. "This experience simplifies technology for our users allowing students to focus on their educational goals. We believe this is really what set us apart from others who entered."
In addition, Rowan-Cabarrus has made great advances for students, most recently, with the launch of the Rowan-Cabarrus mobile app. The mobile app highlights key features that allow students to register for classes and view course schedules.
"Students can now view their entire course load along with detailed descriptions of each class, check their final grades on the go, access Blackboard and even get personalized notifications regarding any holds on their student account," said Ingle.
The College is also continuing their efforts in the ever-expanding courses offered via distance education.
"A recent study indicated that distance education enrollments account for nearly all recent student growth at two-year institutions and we want to be sure we are offering courses in the methods our students want. But from the information technology side of things, we also want to make sure those offerings are supported with the right kinds of technology and customer service resources," said Ron Kelley, director of data analytics and service assurance.
In 2014, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College set a new record of 5,700 online registrations and over 300 class sections available each semester. Over 46 percent of all curriculum classes at Rowan-Cabarrus are offered via distance education.
"Technology is being used on campuses and in lecture halls to lower costs and improve student outcomes," said Alan Cox, senior vice president for the Center for Digital Education. "This year's survey indicates that community colleges are making great strides in using data to improve decisions, providing professional development to assist faculty in the use of technology, and creating robust online and mobile environments for their students."
Overall findings among the colleges from the survey include: 58 percent support student job placement through online resume-building tools, 43 percent have strategies in place for the use of mobile devices and 81 percent of colleges surveyed use cloud computing services resulting in cost savings.
"The College understands the importance of digital offerings. We will continue to listen to our students and provide the technological options they are seeking for their education," said Kelley. "Although we have come a long way, we continue to work and enhance the services and system we provide to students."