City College applies for four technology grants

Adam Sjölinder

With an educational system dependent on innovative technology, City College has applied for grants worth thousands of dollars to improve the area.

The four grants are from the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) program lead by EDUCAUSE. Three of the grants are of $250,000 and one is of $750,000.

The goal of this project is to increase student engagement, satisfaction, and course completion rates by expanding the technological tools.

“We’ve been doing similar things in the higher education level for maybe a hundred years, most classrooms and most teaching hasn’t changed,” said Dr. Douglas Hersh, dean of educational programs and author of the grant application. “Yet there has been an enormous and profound technological revolution.”

The project is to expand the Human Presence Learning Environment, an experimental project City College piloted in 2009 that focuses on human presence and affective learning in distance education. An example of this is Moodle, which provides educational tools via Internet.

Hersh said the problem with distance education is that students are alone and that learning is social, not just cognitive.

“It’s about being able to talk and look another person in the eye,” he said.

NGLC is funded by The Bill & Melina Gates Foundation and other philanthropic organizations.

Over 600 schools applied for the grants, but only 47 continued to the final stage. City College is one of them and the winner will be announced on March 31.

“When we were named a finalist, I was pleasantly surprised,” Hersh said.

Hersh worked together with Cheryl Dettrick, the college’s grant consultant, to finalize and submit the application, a time consuming project.

“I feel very good about the project. I’m very hopeful,” Hersh said.

Superintendent-President Andreea Serban said she considers City College as an innovative college and technology is important for the school.

“We have a responsibility as a college to expose students to the latest technology,” she said. “Obviously to help them, but also to make learning more interactive and fun.”

The Human Presence project is an Open Source program, which means it’s basically free. But faculty members have to be trained to use the system more effectively.

Serban said City College is fighting against some prestigious competitors, but to make it to this level is a great recognition.

“We always strive to have the state of the art equipment and we always want to be better,” Serban said. “Technology chances so fast, you can never say you’re done. You constantly have to keep up.”