Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Mobilizing the College Experience at DEL MAR COLLEGE

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Mobilizing the College Experience at DEL MAR COLLEGE

Article excerpt

technological tide is turning at Del Mar College, and advancements in the last year amount to a full-blown sea change. The objective: Give today's tech-sawy students what they need when they need it - and make it available on whatever electronic device they may be using.

A slew of new, interactive projects, some completed and others in the pipeline, are making the college experience easier and more accessible than it's ever been for students and prospective students.

"We've never had this many projects launched in one calendar year," said August Alfonso, chief information officer at the college. "Collectively, we're defining the prominence of technology at Del Mar College."

After all, 60 percent of Internet activity is wireless and increasing, Alfonso said.

A major change

The college took the first step toward this technological revolution a year and a half ago by directing the information technology department to put college resources at students' fingertips.

"They asked us to maximize high-tech and high-touch, with the No. 1 goal being access to Del Mar College," Alfonso said. "We know students have the devices. We want to allow them to use our resources. This is a major change."

Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, is the infrastructure behind the change. It isn't so much a technology as it is a guiding principle aimed at making academic activities possible on any device 24/7. Any student with a browser, whether on a smartphone, tablet or laptop, has access to the college.

BYOD's inception paved the way for a succession of forward-thinking projects. Viking Net, a Wi-Fi network designed specifically for students, enables them to surf the Internet, check email and do anything else online with their own device. (The Viking is the Del Mar College mascot.) Where the student goes, access follows.

"I use it for entertainment and to do research for my classes," said Hilliary Herrera, 20, a nursing education major, as she browsed Viking Net on her tablet. "It's very useful when I can't get to a computer."

Self-service

Academic activity and mobile technology merged in August 2013 with the adoption of the Canvas learning management system, which allows interaction in a user-friendly, online environment with a social media feel. Users can download the mobile app, and students can submit assignments and communicate with their classmates and instructors. Alfonso calls it mobile learning.

"It's self-service," he said. "Students can practically complete a course with this."

Daisy Gamica, 19, a chemical engineering major, especially likes Canvas's calendar feature because it helps her stay on track with her class assignments.

"When you work and go to school like I do, your time is limited," she said. "It's good to have that visual."

Because Canvas is hosted in the cloud, there are no servers to buy and maintain. And there's no possibility of interruptions in network connections that could halt coursework. That's a significant advantage in the subtropical Texas Coastal Bend, where the threat of a hurricane can lead to shutdowns and evacuations six months out of the year.

Answering the call

Recently, the college upgraded its telephone system to better manage calls from people asking general questions, which increase exponentially at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. Dedicating additional staff to answer the calls wasn't feasible. The dilemma turned into an opportunity, and once again, interactive technology was the solution. Using their own device, students can now just use Ask the Viking. …

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