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Colleges Moving as a Group to Cloud and Mobile Services, Survey Finds

More community colleges are offering Web-based coursework, delivering services to mobile devices and are moving IT systems to the cloud in order to cope with reduced budgets and increased enrollments.

by / September 27, 2011
Photo courtesy of Virginia Western Community College Virginia Western Community College

More community colleges are offering Web-based coursework, delivering services to mobile devices and are moving IT systems to the cloud in order to cope with reduced budgets and increased enrollments, a new survey has found.

The seventh-annual Digital Community Colleges Survey also ranked institutions based on enrollment size and by how they are using technology to improve services to students, faculty and staff. Data from hundreds of respondents was gathered via a questionnaire and points-based benchmarking. The winning colleges were recognized in an announcement Tuesday, Sept. 27, from the Center for Digital Education, the research organization that conducted the survey. The list of winners is here.

(The Center for Digital Education is operated by e.Republic Inc., the parent company of Government Technology magazine.)

Compared to the survey data from a year ago, significantly more community colleges are delivering student services through mobile devices. Forty-two percent of community colleges are making grades securely accessible through mobile devices (a 22 point increase from a year ago). For the course calendar, 35 percent (a 20 point increase); 30 percent for class registration (19 point increase); 33 percent for electronic payment processing (18 point increase); 31 percent for  admissions (16 point increase); and 37 percent for course management (15 point increase). In some cases, access extends to faculty and staff: At Virginia Western Community College, the winner of the survey’s mid-size category, all full-time faculty members are provided with at least one computer, and hundreds of laptops, tablets, iPads and other mobile devices are available for their use.

Most community colleges are also offering courses online and have made distance learning available. Ninety-two percent have expanded distance learning offerings for online, hybrid and Web-assisted courses; 77 percent have increased online student services; 73 percent have increased the number of computers and kiosks; 76 percent are providing access to academic tutoring and tutors online; 72 percent to academic advising services and advisers online; and 68 percent to career guidance services and counselors online. Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y., the winner of the survey’s large college category, reported it uses technology that allows applications to be installed on students’ own computers for the duration of their enrollment, which enable off-campus access.

In addition, community colleges are utilizing the cloud for the virtualization of IT systems and storage. Sixty-six percent are engaged in data center virtualization; desktop virtualization (49 percent; and software as a service (53 percent). In one example, Tompkins Cortland Community College, in New York, the winner of the small-size community college category, reported it has been using cloud-based systems for student work placement, online course evaluation, timecard, customer relationship management and other functions. 

Furthermore, the Center for Digital Education identified community colleges’ top 10 listed priorities:

    1. Mobility
    2. Virtualized Desktops
    3. Lecture Capture
    4. Virtualized Servers
    5. Refreshing existing technologies
    6. Video conferencing
    7. Networking infrastructure
    8. Wireless infrastructure
    9. Portal development
    10. Cloud

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