More people than ever before are able to attend college through the use of new technologies. Across the nation, more minorities, Native Americans, veterans and older adults now have better access to higher education.
Carl Albert State College (CASC) is one of those colleges employing new strategies to improve access and outcomes for students. CASC’s latest improvement is the deployment of Zoom Video Conferencing technology to expand access to courses for both Native American college students and high school students concurrently enrolled in college courses.
Zoom is a video communications software service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration. Zoom rooms are classrooms, boardrooms or other rooms that are equipped with a laptop, monitor or smartboard that can connect with Zoom software.
CASC is one of many schools in Oklahoma deploying the software. The college is using grant funds to purchase the equipment necessary to connect students and courses via Zoom.
In 2015, CASC was awarded the prestigious Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI) grant in the amount of $1,998,818 over a five-year period. The NASNTI grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Education and provides the assistance needed by nontribal institutions to better serve both Native Americans and low-income individuals. Schools with a Native American population of 10 percent or more are eligible for the grant. At the time of the grant application, CASC had a 30 percent Native American enrollment.
CASC Chief Information Officer Michael Martin outlined four objectives for the grant, which should be met by September 2020. The college is working to increase the fall-to-fall retention rate of Native American students utilizing grant services by 12.5 percent and increase the college completion rate of Native American students by 10.6 percent. CASC is also utilizing the grant to increase access to classes at both the Poteau and Sallisaw campuses and is piloting an evidence-based coaching program.
Zoom technology is helping propel the college to meet all of these objectives. CASC is installing Zoom technology at both its Poteau and Sallisaw campuses in 14 rooms. Additionally, CASC is providing synchronous classes using Zoom, which allows students from the two campuses to attend classes from the other campus’ course sheet. This increases access to the courses that are required for students to graduate.
“Through the coaching program and expanded course access, the fall-to-fall retention rate for Native American students since piloting this grant service has increased by 15.7 percent and their college completion rate has increased by 9.4 percent. Through Zoom room technology, access to classes for students at both campuses has increased,” reported Martin.
The rural high schools near CASC are also benefiting from the NASNTI grant. CASC is providing Zoom technologies to local high schools to give the students a chance to concurrently attend the college. CASC is providing Zoom carts for the high schools and hopes to provide Chromebooks for concurrent students to access the college’s courses.
CASC’s IT team designed the Zoom carts, which are portable carts that consist of a 65-inch television monitor, computer, webcam and mic with the Zoom application installed and configured for the specific school. The carts are configured to allow CASC IT support to remote into the systems to provide support for concurrent classes. CASC has deployed a successful trial of the Zoom carts at Spiro High School.
This technology is vital to CASC’s goals of increasing college completion through concurrent enrollment. The three-year graduation rate for concurrent enrollment students at Oklahoma community colleges is significantly higher than for non-concurrent students. The state’s public colleges and universities provide concurrent courses for more than 12,000 students systemwide. CASC serves 30 high schools with 316 concurrently enrolled students.
OneNet has played an integral role in the Zoom technology deployment at CASC and across the state. OneNet has partnered with Zoom to develop a statewide purchasing program that offers significant cost savings on Zoom services to educational institutions at all levels.
“As OneNet and Zoom work together to make video conferencing software more affordable, schools and colleges like Carl Albert State College reap the benefits,” said Von Royal, OneNet executive director. “An important part of OneNet’s mission is to be a trusted partner in meeting our state’s higher education completion goals and in enhancing economic development by assisting with preparation of tomorrow’s workforce.”
By maximizing grant funding and utilizing Zoom classrooms, CASC expects to retain, grow and engage more students at the college and high school level.
Martin noted that providing the resources needed for CASC’s Native American and concurrently enrolled students to be successful is a top priority. He said the college’s primary goals are to utilize Zoom technology to increase enrollment and improve retention by expanding access.
Photos courtesy of Carl Albert State College
Story by Jessica Todd
Strategic Communications Intern, Fall 2018