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Legislators hear from community college system on COVID-19 needs

Welcome to Awake58. Thank you for reading. If you missed last week’s newsletter, which focused on lessons of leadership during COVID-19, click here.

We showcase the practical “how” of expanding Wi-Fi and computer access for colleges … Stanly Community College donates four ventilators to Atrium Health, joining dozens of other colleges in responding to community needs … Forsyth Tech partners with its K-12 district to feed hungry students … We take a look at the digital divide more broadly …

I deeply appreciate all of you who took the time to write in last week. Nearly all of you are wrestling with a fundamental reshaping of your day-to-day lives and your work at the same time — so it means a lot to have you continue to engage with Awake58 and all of EdNC’s work. I hope each of you will stay safe.

Over the last few weeks, your community colleges have shifted instruction online. This transition represents a sea change statewide, but it also raises significant questions due to the challenge of the digital divide. 

Ken Boham summed up the challenge in northeastern North Carolina: “If you live in Snake Bite, in the woods of Bertie County, where the sun doesn’t seem to come out until 12 o’clock, you probably don’t have reliable internet. Look, our students are resourceful. During the hurricane, they went to Bojangles or Burger King for Wi-Fi, but where do they go when those places are closed?”

Our piece featuring Boham explores some of the strategies colleges are using to get students and faculty online, including:

→ Expanding Wi-Fi into parking lots by moving access points

→  Partnering with local industry and philanthropy to provide laptops, including Chromebooks, to students and faculty

→ Keeping resource centers open with social distancing in place

Kandi Deitemeyer, president of Central Piedmont Community College, helped distribute Chromebooks to students in need a few weeks ago. Her quote stuck with me, and I hope it inspires you as we go forward this week:

“I stood there today with my gloves and my mask on next to faculty and staff and other leaders of the college, and it lifted my heart. You know 80 doesn’t sound like a lot when you are talking about CPCC, but it’s 80 today. And there will be 80 more tomorrow.”

As the saying goes: Keep on keeping on.



Director of Growth,

NCGA hears from Peter Hans on community college needs during COVID-19

Lawmakers in the education working group of the House select committee on COVID-19 heard from Peter Hans last week. Hans pointed out that online instruction has become the norm for community colleges over the last two weeks while also noting the challenges of internet access.

Hans told the legislators the community college system needs a reserve of up to $25 million to draw down from in case of any shortfalls caused by a loss of tuition. He also previewed funding needs for the upcoming short session, which will include recurring enrollment growth funding of $41.5 million. 

All of this discussion, of course, is against the backdrop of surging unemployment and a significant amount of budget requests from sectors across the state. For more reporting on the conversation, check out my colleague Alex Granados’ full story.

From Mebane Rash: Our ‘homework gap’ just became our ‘school gap’ and ‘no child left behind’ just became ‘no child left offline’

Last week, we ran a series of pieces exploring the role of the digital divide and lack of internet access. COVID-19 has shown the entire state the reality of the challenges many communities have been facing around internet access for some time. 

I could summarize Mebane’s piece, but I would recommend giving it a read. A portion of the opening passage underscores the urgency of the need:

“Erin Swanson, the director of innovation for Edgecombe County Public Schools, is one of many educators wrestling with how to get students access quickly. ‘I know that getting broadband isn’t going to happen overnight, but I wish it would,’ Swanson writes, asking, ‘What can be done? Who should we be reaching out to?’

‘It truly is the cruelest part of the digital divide,’ said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel back in 2017 in a keynote speech in North Carolina about the homework gap, a term she coined. Now, in this time of coronavirus when educational opportunity more broadly will be determined by access to a device and the internet and the capacity to use both well, Rosenworcel said in a recent op-ed in The Verge, ‘the most important thing is to act now, so that no child is left offline.’

“‘No child left offline’ is the new ‘no child left behind.’”

ICYMI … Last week, we pointed Awake58 readers to a piece I wrote capturing the feelings of numerous community college presidents as they wrestled with the challenges brought by this pandemic. Surry Community College President David Shockley’s words have stuck with me since we published the piece. Shockley told us, “As an administrator, it feels like the weight of the world is on you as you attempt to make the right decision. You have to consider your righteous desire to help promote the essential need for education, which is critical in our lives, with the safety of life itself. My goodness, these decisions are gut wrenching!” For the full piece, click here.

Community colleges step up to serve their communities

As North Carolina surpasses 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, health care providers are scrambling to find supplies they need, including masks, gloves, and ventilators.

Atrium Health Stanly now has four more ventilators, courtesy of Stanly Community College (SCC), which donated the Siemens Maquet Servo-i models it had been using to train students in health sciences. These mechanical breathing devices are in high demand because they support lung function for patients who become seriously ill and have trouble breathing.

For more on SCC’s response — and the broader list of the many community colleges who have stepped up to serve their community — click here.

Virtual learning resources as colleges continue the online transition

The Belk Center at NC State has stepped up to assist colleges and faculty in the transition to online learning. It has published a range of videos including how to’s on active learning, crafting online student surveys, and low bandwidth online course design.

For all of the resources, click here. If you are a faculty or staff member with requests during this time, check out their form.

The staff at the Belk Center told Awake58 that more than 100 people attended the webinars that led to a dedicated system in which faculty can request support, free of cost, and receive hands-on guidance from one of their staff or another expert. They also shared that more than 50 faculty members have requested support, and needs include strategies for active learning in an online environment, how to handle lab hours of a course, developing video lectures, effective engagement tools, and so much more.  

Worth a watch… Our friends at NC Impact just aired a deep dive on broadband access with UNC-TV.

If you have three more minutes… One of the major topics of conversation we’ve heard time and time again is the challenge of moving some short-term workforce development programs online. Hechinger Report is out with a piece asking, “Can hands-on career and tech programs go online during school shutdowns?”

Forsyth Tech, K-12 school district create unique partnership to feed students during COVID-19

Community colleges and K-12 districts have partnered in a variety of ways to tackle challenges, but Forsyth Tech and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools have launched a unique partnership to tackle food insecurity during COVID-19.

Stacy Waters-Bailey, executive director of student support services for Forsyth Tech, was part of FTCC President Janet Spriggs’ team that developed the concept of Forsyth Tech Cares. As Waters-Bailey told my colleague Analisa Sorrells this week: “A number of our students have been laid off. They have unforeseen circumstances that they are overwhelmed with at the moment, and we do not want them to be hungry.”

Analisa described how it works: Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is offering free breakfast and lunch for any child ages 18 and under at dozens of school sites across the county. These meals are also being delivered to mobile sites at apartment complexes, mobile home parks, and other public places. Forsyth Tech students can also pick up free meals from any of the district’s meal sites by showing their student ID — no questions asked.

For more on the program, check out Analisa’s full piece.

One perspective: Haywood Community College increases student success through excellence in advising

Michael Coleman, vice president of student services at Haywood Community College, wrote a perspective for EdNC documenting HCC’s new approach to advising. Coleman writes about their new model of advising, called navigating college, and notes their work with Aviso.

He goes on to describe an interesting approach for HCC regarding their admission application. They removed all academic programs and levels from the application and instead listed out career clusters such as health care, business, etc.

Coleman shares, “As a result of these initiatives, HCC has experienced a 75% decrease in non-pay student purge. Additionally, the college has witnessed increased levels of student course completion, persistence, and academic achievement on campus with this comprehensive approach to advising and success coaching.”

For more, check out his full perspective. As a reminder, EdNC accepts first-person perspectives on a range of topics. If you are interested in writing for us, send me an email!

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.