Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helps HSIs Collaborate on Online Learning

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helps HSIs Collaborate on Online Learning

Article excerpt

In 1993. five years before Google began, seven Hispanic-Serving I Il Institutions (HSIs) launched the Hispanic Educational Technology MM !services (HETS). This nonprofit consortium trains faculty to use technology, encourages using best practices in distance and online learning, and inspires collaboration among the schools. Leaders of HETS did not possess a crystal ball or know that the Internet would shape the next decade, but were ahead of the curve in promoting the use of technology and helping Latino students' master online learning.

The seven HSIs that started HETS were Lehman College and Hostos Community College in New York, Ana G. Méndez University and the University of Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico, University of Texas (UT)Brownsville and UT-Pan American, and the University of New Mexico. HETS earned a grant from the Department of Commerce, which helped lift it off the ground.

By 201 1, HETS has expanded to 30 HSIs, including a dozen community colleges. Member colleges have 500,000 students, and Latinos constitute 60 percent of their population. To become members, colleges pay $5,000 a year for four-year institutions and $3,000 for two-year colleges. HETS runs lean since it only has two full-time staff members, including its executive director, and relies on several freelancers, including a Web designer.

Primary Goals

HETS defines its goals as helping Latino students and Hispanic colleges in several ways: 1) developing and implementing technological approaches to education, 2) encouraging collaboration and best practices among member colleges, and 3) introducing technological projects.

HETS Executive Director Yubelkys Montalvo, who is based at Méndez University in San Juan, says the consortium has been concentrating on improving the way HSIs deliver online learning and enhancing the way Latino students learn so they can use technology as a tool to further their higher education goals.

HETS' board established a five-year plan in 2010 to focus on accomplishing three goals: 1) increasing access to higher education, 2) assessment of students, and 3) improving retention to increase Latino graduate rates.

Why focus on Latino students since all students - Latinos, Whites, African-Americans and Asians - need help in distance learning? Montalvo says the educational gap between the achievement of Latino and majority students existed back then and still operates. HETS aims to "overcome Hispanic barriers, help students gain access to new technologies and find ways to achieve their educational goals," she said.

"Our services work perfectly for all students, whether Hispanic or not," explained Montalvo. Some training is geared toward students in online classes who are bilingual and learning English as their second language, but that could help Asian students as easily as Latinos.

Focusing on Online Learning

One of HETS' primary ways of achieving its goals involves improving Latino students' performance in online learning. It offers online and in person training of faculty to improve their teaching techniques online. Moreover, it runs a best practices conference, held in Puerto Rico, that also inspires faculty on how to reach Latino students via online learning.

Most of what HETS achieves comes directly through dealings with faculty, rather than directly with students. However, it offers online practice tests for students to improve their scores on GRE, LSAT and other graduate exams. And it lists hundreds of scholarships online that can enable students to lower their financial aid, offers a list of internships, and includes a database career transition, which helps them choose the right jobs. HETS also provides several online resources for faculty, including a peer review journal about online learning. Its online videos include a primer for time management and another providing an overview of teaching online.

Though Montalvo is based in San Juan, she keeps in close touch with HETS' 30 member colleges. …

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