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Most Innovative Digital Community Colleges Recognized in Annual Survey

The Center for Digital Education’s 2016-17 Digital Community Colleges Survey Awards honor community colleges utilizing technology to engage students and improve learning.

April 18, 2017 - The Center for Digital Education (CDE) announced the winners of its 2016-17 Digital Community Colleges Survey today. Now in its twelfth year, the Digital Community Colleges Survey analyzes how community colleges use a range of technologies to improve services to students, faculty, staff and the community at large.  

“This year’s survey indicates community colleges are continuing to improve efforts at creating cost-effective platforms and Open Education Resources, mobile environments, real-time resources, telepresence robots and more to create robust online and mobile environments for their students,” said Dr. Kecia Ray, executive director for the Center for Digital Education. “Congratulations to this year’s survey winners.”




Highlights of the First-Place Colleges in each Category:

  • Thomas Nelson Community College, Va. (Enrollment 10,000 students or more) 
    Thomas Nelson Community College recently launched an online platform designed to help students better prepare to enter the global workforce. The platform provides guided onboarding, academic planning and course scheduling and enables students to make program selections using real-time job data and campus resources. The platform streamlines the enrollment process and creates personalized pathways for students that align with their goals. The college also has several classrooms equipped with technologies that allow low enrollment courses to be taught remotely in several locations rather than be cancelled.  
  • Lord Fairfax Community College, Va. (Enrollment between 5,000 and 10,000 students)
    Lord Fairfax Community College recently implemented a video technology service to enable lecture capture and recording, digital whiteboarding and remote connections from anywhere in the world for any student with an internet connection, regardless of platform. The service also includes a remote-control teleconferencing robot that enables the school to interact with students remotely to better engage them and to capture their feedback. The new service provided an initial cost-savings of $750,000.
  • Carl Sandburg College, Ill. (Enrollment of 5,000 or fewer students) 
    Recognizing that most students are tied to their mobile devices, Carl Sandburg College includes a mobile option for all services they offer. The college also offers a learning environment rich with interactive options like gaming, collaborative spaces, virtual reality, and telepresence robots. In addition, the Open Education Resource Course Initiative (OERCI) has saved students almost a half million dollars in textbook costs to-date.
The survey also revealed insights about community colleges’ technology priorities. Colleges surveyed indicated that mobility devices/app support is their top priority in the coming year, followed by website redesign/updates, cybersecurity tools and testing, and digital content and curriculum. The survey revealed that 54% of colleges offer professional development courses on how to use mobile apps for instruction; 28% of colleges offer professional development for teachers or provide specific policies regarding how to protect student privacy when using apps.; and 91% offer professional development courses on how to integrate technology into curriculum and instructional practices.

All accredited U.S. community colleges are eligible to participate in the Digital Community Colleges Survey within three classifications based on enrollment size. CDE thanks last year’s first-place winners who abstained from participation to contribute as members of the development panel for this year’s survey: Montgomery County Community College, Pa.; Hostos Community College, N.Y.; and Laramie County Community College, Wyo.


2016-2017 Digital Community Colleges Survey Top Ten-Ranking Colleges

Congratulations Winners!


Large Colleges Category – 10,000 Students or More:

1st Thomas Nelson Community College, Va.

2nd Harper College, Ill.

3rd Howard Community College, Md.

4th Fayetteville Technical Community College, N.C.

4th Kirkwood Community College, Iowa

4th Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, N.C.

5th Northern Virginia Community College

6th Central Piedmont Community College, N.C.

6th Lone Star College, Texas 

7th HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College

7th Sinclair Community College, Ohio

8th J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Va.

8th Pellissippi State Community College, Tenn.

9th Delaware Technical Community College

9th Northampton Community College, Penn.

9th San Antonio College, Texas

10th Western Iowa Tech Community College


Mid-sized Colleges Category – Between 5,000 and 10,000 Students:

1st Lord Fairfax Community College, Va.

2nd Virginia Western Community College

2nd Walters State Community College, Tenn.

3rd Cleveland Community College, N.C.

4th Columbia State Community College, Tenn.

4th Delta College, Mich.

4th Kansas City Kansas Community College

5th Piedmont Virginia Community College

6th Mott Community College, Mich.

7th Nash Community College, N.C.

7th Central Virginia Community College

7th Southwest Tennessee College

8th Northeast Community College, Neb.

8th Saint Paul College, Minn.

9th Minnesota West Community and Technical College

10th Davidson County Community College, N.C.

10th Germanna Community College, Va.

10th Lake Land College, Ill.


Small Colleges Category – 5,000 or fewer Students:

1st Carl Sandburg College, Ill.

2nd Mid-Plains Community College, Neb.

3rd Rappahannock Community College, Va.

4th Manchester Community College, N.H.

5th Jefferson Community College, N.Y.

5th Lake Sumter State College, Fla.

6th Kirtland Community College, Mich.

7th Bay de Noc Community College, Mich.

7th Halifax Community College, N.C.

8th Central Maine Community College

8th Southwest Virginia Community College

9th Blue Ridge Community College, Va.

9th North Arkansas College

9th Tompkins Cortland Community College N.Y.

10th Lake Area Technical Institute, S.D.

10th Patrick Henry Community College, Va.


Selected Survey Findings:

Digital Community Colleges Survey Top 10 Priorities for the Coming Year: 

1. Mobility (devices and app support); 

2. Website Redesign/ Updates

3. Cyber Security Tools and Testing

4. Digital Content and Curriculum 

5. Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity

5. Hire and Retain Competent IT Personnel

5. Server Consolidation and Virtualization

6. Network Infrastructure Modernization (Wired and/or Wireless)

7. Computer Refresh

8. Server Refresh

9. Desktop virtualization

10. Migrate to cloud services

Mobility strategy:

  • 39% of colleges have a strategy in place for the use of mobile devices.
  • 53% of colleges are piloting the use of mobile devices in classrooms, but don't have a formal strategy in place. (up 8 percent over last year)
  • 54% of colleges offer professional development for teachers on how to use mobile apps for instruction.
  • 28% of colleges offer professional development for teachers or provide specific policies regarding how to protect student privacy when using apps. 
Professional Development: 

  • 91% of colleges provide professional development on how to integrate technology into curriculum and instructional practices.
  • 87% of the colleges offer technology training that can be accesses online and on demand.
  • 70% of the colleges include recommendations for or recognition of innovative use of technology in instruction.
  • 61% of the colleges provide professional development that involves ongoing mentoring or peer support.
  • 28% of the colleges mandate ongoing technology-based instructional training and require attendance multiple times a year.
Social Media:

  • 62% have developed and published social media policies – a 16 percent increase over last year.
  • 74% of colleges’ social media policies include material regarding appropriate online conduct (such as policies addressing online bullying or setting expectations for respectful discourse). 
  • 58% of colleges’ social media policies regarding appropriate online conduct include classroom use of smart phones and other devices such as tablets and laptops.
  • 51% of colleges’ social media policies address hacking.
  • 38% of the colleges’ policies address teacher/student interactions on social media sites. 
Internet of Things: 51% of colleges are actively considering the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) in their strategic planning. (up 9 percent over last year) 

Data Management:

  • 78% of colleges use cloud computing services which have resulted in cost savings
  • 99% of colleges have an emergency alerting and notification system in place; such as phone, text, computer pop-up alerts, broadcast or other voice-alerting devices in the classroom.
  • 79% of colleges have their off-site data storage redundancies in place.
  • 77% of colleges have tested their back-up for technology (such as cloud solutions, onsite or offsite system) with successful results (up 15% from last year)
  • 51% of colleges have included cyber disruptions in their completed crisis management plans.
  • 44% of colleges provide ongoing, post-graduation access to digital educational content (e.g., digital academic journals and databases) to their alumni.
About the Center for Digital Education

The Center for Digital Education (CDE) is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding. CDE provides education and industry leaders with decision support and actionable insights to help effectively incorporate new technologies in the 21st century. Learn more at:

CDE is a division of e.Republic, the nation’s only media and research company focused exclusively on state and local government and education


To register for notification of the 2017-18 survey, survey calendar, and more information, visit

For additional questions:

Janet Grenslitt, Director of Surveys and Awards  | 916-932-1363