Tech-Savvy College Shares Tips for Keeping Up

By Ellen Ullman

Discover why Laramie County Community College has been named the No. 1 Tech-Savvy Community College four times.

The IT department at Laramie County Community College (LCCC), in Wyoming, exhibits all the qualities of a great piece of technology: innovation, collaboration and flexibility. But those features are only part of the reason the Center for Digital Education has named this college the No. 1 Tech-Savvy Community College for midsized community colleges four times.

More than anything, LCCC’s tech staff is focused on delivering what its users need — before they ask.

“We try to focus on using technology to be the best college we can and making sure our software is mobile-friendly for today’s users,” says Chad Marley, chief technology officer for LCCC.

For the past 10 years, the college has focused on not only keeping up with the technology that students are interested in having on campus but also providing tools for faculty and staff to help them provide a teaching environment that is beneficial for everybody.

The financial backing

Thanks to an annual student high-tech fee of $10 per credit hour (uncapped), LCCC was able to create smart classrooms and develop online courses. This revenue-generating method worked well until about three years ago, when enrollment began declining. Marley says the decrease in funding resulted in a slowdown on new initiatives.

This year, the high-tech fee was replaced with two new fees: one for infrastructure and one for student technology. As of this fall, students pay $23 per credit hour (capped at 12 credit hours). “It’s a little bit of an increase, but we had not increased it for several years, and now students don’t have to pay extra for online courses,” Marley says.

Top-notch tech abounds

About 85 percent of campus classrooms have one or two SMARTBoards and projectors; many also have a document camera, a Blu-ray player or a DVD player. The technology is based on what the faculty members request.

In terms of online learning, LCCC was one of the first colleges in Wyoming to focus on creating a consistent environment between online and in-person courses. “Our instructional technologists worked with us and the faculty to create course shells so that online classes have a similar framework, which is very helpful for students,” says Marley.

Students can also drop by the Fishbowl, operated by the business and technology school, to receive free tech support from students.

Secrets to tech success

Marley says his department is working harder than ever to incorporate many different perspectives, including those of students and faculty, when making IT decisions. “In the past, we didn’t take enough time to listen to the stakeholders — the people most affected by our decisions,” he admits. “We’ve learned to take into consideration what others may be experiencing; listening to what people want is key.”

Marley completed his master’s degree online, so he has insight into the student perspective. And he started teaching in fall 2014, so he also views IT from a faculty standpoint.

Marley is trying to get his staff into the classroom more regularly so they can be more empathetic toward the users they are trying to support.

“Our focus this year is to create a tech oversight committee that will develop and redefine the IT strategic plan to align with the college’s strategic plan,” Marley says. He hopes the committee, which will include students, is in place by the end of December.

Ellen Ullman

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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