Technologies for Engaging Nontraditional, Rural College Students
Educators also started using digital inking instead of traditional whiteboards, which allowed them to hand-write on digital devices with a stylus pen, mouse or touchpad. “That really caught on,” Kevin Wagenmaker, the college’s instructional technology consultant, said during the talk. This way, in-person and remote students could all collaborate with the instructor on the same, visually appealing whiteboard.
Montcalm also used Microsoft Whiteboard, a digital whiteboard app from the Microsoft 365 suite, and incorporated document cameras into Nearpod, Microsoft polls and other engagement software. The tools all integrated well with the online courses, which were driven by Microsoft Teams.
According to Wagenmaker, being able to automate scheduling was a game changer. “Something that really helped us this year was the Microsoft sync integration within Canvas,” Wagenmaker said. “Our teams are based on our Canvas course rosters, and it syncs when students leave or get added to the roster.”
The Infrastructure for Supporting Flexible Online Learning Experiences
Above all, the college’s previous cloud investments proved critical for a smooth transition to remote learning. “We have made a large investment in cloud-based solutions over the past couple of years,” Montcalm IT Director David Kohn said at the talk.
The college took a forward-thinking approach and began planning for the students’ eventual return to campus shortly after the pandemic began. “When the pandemic hit, we took that as an opportunity to invest in our core infrastructure,” he said, which included both wired and wireless infrastructure.
This way, the college’s networks and systems were prepared to support in-person and hybrid learning, as well as synchronous and asynchronous options for nontraditional students.