Making Educational Technology Accessible for Native American Students
To ensure a smooth transition to online learning, the college took a close look at their students’ ability to access technology.
“We are fortunate to have a clear understanding of who our student population is. We had very direct and clear communication with our students, and were able identify what their needs were, what their obstacles were, so that we could respond and react to that,” says Shawn Ragan, vice president and chief operations officer.
That meant providing not just online courses but also the digital course materials needed for tribal distance learning success, as well as student success in general in rural settings.
“If the course was online, we had to make sure the books were also available online,” he says. “We didn’t want students struggling to get books just because they didn’t have access to a bookstore during the pandemic.”
The school also took steps to ensure that educators were ready to make the leap.
“Our faculty went through distance education training before they could teach the classes,” Ragan says. “The transition from an in-person class to an online class — it’s a very different setup. It’s a very different dynamic. We wanted to be sure they had the tools to be responsive to their students. The context is different, and we wanted to ensure that they would be ready to address those changes.”
Above all, it helped that CINC had a head start on the technology front. “We already had programs in place that helped get Chromebooks to our students who needed them,” says Ragan.
“We also had MiFi portable hotspot devices for students who don’t have home internet access. They get the devices on loan from the college for free. As long as they have cell service, they are able to get internet,” he says. Both the Chromebooks and the MiFi devices are available to any student who needs them.