Technology is a tool. Nowhere is that more true than at Walters State Community College’s Information and Educational Technologies (IET) Department. From making sure students have the tools to complete projects, track graduation progress and access learning resources, Joe Sargent’s IET team provides students the technology they need to succeed.
“Students first is our philosophy here,” said Sargent. “Students are our end product. If they don’t get a good education, then we’re not succeeding. The technology IET supports should enhance education, not impede it.”
Under Sargent’s leadership, the IET department at Walters State has been recognized by Apple twice as a Distinguished School. The Center for Digital Education’s Digital Community Colleges Survey also recognized it as one of the most tech-savvy colleges in the U.S.
In 2011, Sargent oversaw Walters State’s major systems conversion to a centralized cloud-hosting provider at Tennessee’s Office of Information Resources. Now, seven of Tennessee’s 13 community colleges have made the conversion. Individual operating systems serve each college separately, but they’re all talking to a centralized database.
As the state moves toward taking all its community colleges to a single system, Walters State and the other early adopters have demonstrated that it can be done, said Sargent. “Now we’re going to the next level. Through initiatives in the past five years, we’re moving toward combined opportunities that create cost-savings, enhanced disaster recovery and better services for students.”
Walters State uses Microsoft Office 365 and has moved its online learning environment to the cloud. The college is in the fifth year of its mEngage initiative, which is designed to enhance student engagement and improve learning outcomes through mobile technology. Many of the college’s faculty use apps, mobile tools, and other teaching and learning technologies to engage students inside and outside the classroom. A total of 94 percent of the college’s faculty have developed mobile-learning plans for their classes.
Additionally, Walters State has a VLAB environment, which provides virtual computer access anytime and anywhere so students can have the same computer lab experiences regardless of where they are. This provides students access to software tools they don’t need to purchase and reduces their overall educational cost.
Sargent attributes the success of Walters State IET to his team, which believes in collaborating with the academic side of the college. IET members meet with deans and visit classrooms to get a better picture of what they can do to help.
“My job is easy because of our team,” said Sargent. “I may occasionally come up with a good idea, but they repeatedly develop great ideas.” —Jennifer Snelling