NWACC uses technology to serve its ‘customers’ better

We use Argos Report Writer to help determine needs, and we’ve participated in the National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology (conducted by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research). We create dashboards using Argos, and all our college data are housed in our ERP system, Ellucian Banner, making for easy reporting. We use quick surveys to poll our students, faculty, and staff ad hoc within our myCampus portal, we use Workflow in Banner to eliminate paper, and we store everything in our document imaging solution (Xtender). We’ve turned our class evaluations over to SmartEvals, eliminating the massive cost and time spent on doing these manually (no more Scantrons!). We switched our printing software to PaperCut because it costs less, shows efficiency, and offers a complete web interface.

As a result of these initiatives, we’re able to make data-driven decisions and see what’s working—quickly—and what’s not. By focusing on current processes, we’ve made massive improvements to prepare to be proactive instead of reactive. That, in turn, gives us more time to focus on projects and improvements, instead of endless data entry and cleanup.

What ed-tech project are you most proud of, and why?

Northwest Arkansas Community College has created two first-time initiatives in the state within the past year: (1) a higher-ed technology message board, Arkansas Technology in Higher Ed, and (2) a technology track at an established annual conference for two-year schools in Arkansas. Both projects are in their infancy stages, but both have supported and nurtured a collaborative spirit in higher-education technology throughout the state.

What have been your biggest ed-tech challenges, and how have you overcome these?

Teaching faculty how to use the technology, and making it seem less frightening and complicated, have been our biggest challenges. We thought about who would be the best trainer on the equipment for faculty. After a few discussions, we realized our media librarian would offer the most insight on the equipment, with the least amount of stress. Training needs to be individualized and in layman’s terms.

What’s your best or most useful ed-tech advice for colleagues?

Especially during economic and enrollment downturns, base your technology needs for students, faculty, and staff on feedback from students, faculty, and staff. Don’t pretend to know the needs of your “customers” based on what you’re reading in print and online. Focus on getting to know your stakeholders, and use data and metrics.

It’s been a great year for us, and based on metrics, we need to continue to focus on mobile access. Our numbers are down, our budgets are down, and yet we are moving onward and upward with projects. How? By creating funding and using open-source software in many areas.

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