Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki
  • Tracking pandemic’s effect on transfers, mobility and progress
  • Proposing grants to help with critical job training
  • Houston college launches AI program
  • Training teachers to train better virtually

Tracking pandemic’s effect on transfers, mobility and progress

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center will run a new research report series over the next two years that will track near-real-time the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on U.S. college students’ transfer, mobility and progress.

The series will include nine reports, starting this fall to summer to summer 2022.

The center will tag changes in student transfer pathways attributed to the pandemic by using historical data as the pre-pandemic baseline and the Clearinghouse’s current enrollment data.

The transfer data and insights will be available online free of charge to help schools, institutions, organizations and policymakers develop policies and practice to better serve students during and after the pandemic, especially students from the most-vulnerable populations and those historically underserved, the center said.

“The current upheavals in the postsecondary landscape make transferring far more challenging, affecting both the students seeking to transfer and the institutions supporting them,” Doug Shapiro, the center’s executive director, said in a press release. “The pace of change creates a critical need for real-time data and reliable information, as events upend the plans of students and disrupt the institutions. Education can no longer expect to keep up with today’s tumultuous world while relying on old data. This is why this research will leverage the most current education data available, as reported to the Clearinghouse.”

Ascendium Education Group and the ECMC Foundation are funding the project.

Proposing grants to help with critical job training

To help furloughed or unemployed workers train to prepare for the post-coronavirus economy, a business-led public policy organization has outlined recommendations that include federal grants to improve instructional quality and capacity at community colleges that engage in private-sector partnerships.

The Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board also is recommending tuition support for workers who have reduced hours, are furloughed or have been laid off to encourage them to pursue a postsecondary credential.

“With many low-cost, broad-access community colleges set to operate virtually this fall, covering tuitions could help a cohort of dislocated workers without four-year degrees — whose prepandemic earnings may make them otherwise ineligible for Pell Grants — quickly and affordably build new skills during their time out of the workforce,” according to CED’s new policy paper. “Tuition support could be provided either by direct support to the recipient or, similar to Pell Grants, to quality educational institutions providing the training — including but not limited to community colleges. Pell Grants themselves could be temporarily modified or modeled and adjusted for these purposes.”

Houston college launches AI program

Houston Community College (HCC) this fall is launching an artificial intelligence (AI) associate of applied science degree program, the first community college in Texas to do so.

“Because of a dire shortage of AI specialists, many companies are offering big salaries,” said G. Brown, program coordinator of networking and telecommunications at HCC Southwest. “AI specialists are in high demand by companies like Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, as well as NASA and SpaceX.”

Josh Bankston with MACE Virtual Labs, a partner of HCC, said the new AI program is a “win for MACE.” The Houston-based company collaborated with HCC Southwest to open a virtual reality lab in 2019.

Training teachers to train better virtually

Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) has partnered with the New Mexico Public Education Department to help K-12 public school teachers across the state design optimized virtual learning environments for their students.

Faculty in CNM’s teacher education program developed the trainings, which will be free to up to 18,000 K-12 teachers across New Mexico.

“Just as students across New Mexico deserve access to technology for remote learning, so too do our educators deserve access to professional development that supports their transition into the virtual environment,” says Gwendolyn Perea Warniment, the deputy cabinet secretary for teaching, learning and assessment at the New Mexico Public Education Department.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.