HAZARD—Though Southeastern Kentucky may have never been considered a front runner in the technology arena, one local community college is preparing to make tech waves in the coming year.
Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) has partnered with the Appalachian regional Commission (ARC) and the XanEdu Corporation to start an innitiative at the college which would provide electronic textbook software and 100 tablets to a select few classes as part of a pilot program as a way of enhancing the learning experience.
ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl said this partnership really falls in line with the many other innitiatives in the region trying to make an economic difference, such as the Promise Zone innitiative and SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region).
“We’ve really turned a corner here in Eastern Kentucky. We’re having conversations about the future of this community that we were not having before,” he said. “We see this as an important step forward, really, a partnership that changes the way we do business, and it really creates some new opportunities that we’re really looking forward to.”
Gohl said the $60,000 grant from the ARC will purchase the tablets, for which the technology company XanEdu will provide the course work and curriculum.
Dave Garza, XanEdu senior vice president of strategic partnerships, said the initiative will not only give HCTC a leg up in the technology field, but will also help students who may hold back from higher education and technical programs due to the rising cost of textbooks.
“One of the things that we’re trying to address is the cost of learning materials. Textbook prices have gone up 82 percent in the last 10 years, and we’re leveraging technology now as a way to begin to bring those costs down so that they’re much more reasonable and they become less of a hurdle for a student thinking about enrolling, but concerned about the cost,” he said.
Though which programs and classes the tablets would be used in had not been determined as of the announcement of the partnership on Friday, HCTC President Dr. Steve Greiner said he, Garza, and other key players in this initiative would be talking to the deans of specific programs at the college.
“We’re going to identify specific curriculum, curricular programs that this would work the best for,” he said. “We want to make it the right fit for the students that will be able to use them directly.”
Garza explained that the implementation of tablets in the classrooms does not simply mean the original material is just transfer ed to a digital format, but is instead supplemented with additional interactive elements that cannot come from a paper textbook.
“The advantages are when you think critically about what that material in combination with maybe some demonstration videos, maybe audio, maybe simulation, maybe assessments—and you can customize the way it’s put together so that it works best for your students,” he explained. “That’s what we’re trying to do and that’s what the technology advantage brings to what is already happening in the K-12 classrooms and then to the higher ed learning space.”
Last year, the Perry County School District announced and implemented a new technology initiative that would give students in eighth through 12th grades a tablet to use in each of their classes. Greiner said this partnership with the ARC and XanEdu was just another step in the right direction for HCTC and the region as a whole.
“The future of learning in higher education in high tech, and what XanEdu is doing really does represent not only a new way of learning but really the future of learning and we’re looking at students that are coming up through the school systems that are really technology oriented and very technology skilled,” Geirner said.
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.