What We Can Do About Digital Equity Amidst The Great Education Recession With Lisa Avery

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Hello everyone! My name is Ladek and my guest for this episode is Lisa Avery. Lisa is the President of Linn-Benton Community College in Western Oregon.

In this ‘mechatronic’ conversation, Lisa and I talk about

00:00 › Start

4:29 › Welcome to Linn-Benton—Lisa introduces us to Linn–Benton Community College, what it means to be a community college today, and what a typical student is like and is looking for

8:00 › Community College Matters—We talk about the reality of community college today, what important roles they play, their differences with 4-year colleges and why learners choose them

18:20 › On The Rebound—Lisa discusses how the Pandemic affected community colleges, how they’re rebounding and ways they are using this moment to reflect and adapt

22:21 › Industry Partnerships—We discuss how learners navigate what community colleges have to offer, how partnerships work with industry and how this is all leveraged into higher wages and other educational opportunities

33:42 › Hugging AI… Not—Lisa talks about how AI products are being embraced (or not) by the community college system and its partners
39:05 › Social Mobility—We end our conversation around the topic of social mobility and why community colleges offer unique opportunities for learners to move up.


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Learn more at Open LMS .net Hello, everyone. My name’s Ladek, and my guest for this episode is Lisa Avery. Lisa is the president of Linn-Benton Community College in Western Oregon.

In this mechatronics meeting, Lisa and I talk about Linn-Benton University and what it means to be a community college today and what a typical student looks like and is looking for in this system.

We then talk about the reality of community college today and what important roles they play. Their differences between four -year colleges and community colleges and why learners choose community colleges and the reasons behind why that’s really important for them.

Lisa then discusses how the pandemic affected community college, how they’re rebounding, and the ways that they’re using this moment to reflect and adapt to be even better. We then discuss how learners navigate what community colleges have to offer,

how partnerships work with industry, and how this is all leveraged into higher wages and other educational opportunities for those who attend. Lisa then talks about how AI products are being embraced,

or not, by the community college system and its partners. And then finally, we end our conversation around the topic of social mobility and why community colleges offer unique opportunities for learners to level up.

And remember, we record this podcast live so that our listeners, you, can interact with everyone in real time. If you’d like to join the fun every week on LinkedIn, on Facebook or YouTube,

just come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe. Now, I give you Lisa Avery. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Elearn podcast. I hope that you are all doing well on today,

Tuesday, August 29th. You know, I just had to put that little time stamp in there. I am here with a person who, you know, it’s really difficult to get on a podcast because she’s super, super busy and important. It’s Lisa Avery.

How are you today, Lisa? I’m doing pretty great. How about you? You’re fantastic. My guess is that, you know, you tell us, you tell me right now, did you just like run into your office for this particular conversation,

then you’ve probably got like something like already planned at like 1130 and 1145 or something like that? No, I didn’t run, I sprinted. I am double triple booked,

but it’s good. It’s the price of success, right? It means that we’re trying to keep a lot of plates spinning and, you know, drop it as few as possible. So it’s all good, got plenty of time and happy to chat today about some of my favorite topics.

Yeah. You know, when I first met you, I guess it was just earlier this year, which it seems like forever ago already, but I mean, it was February this year, you and I were sitting at the connected conference in Phoenix together and you just said to me,

you know, like, I really would love to have a deeper conversation around digital equity, around what, you know, all of these changes that we’ve seen over the last three, four years and now I’m sure with AI even more,

you know, and how it’s affecting the community college space in particular. And so before we dive into that conversation, I need to put your pedigree on the stage a little bit.

Tell us about who you are. Tell us about Linn-Benton. You give us the one minute on, you know, what you deliver and what your college represents. Okay, happy to do that. So yeah,

I’m the president at Linn-Benton Community College and we are located in Western Oregon about an hour south of Portland, about 45 minutes north of Eugene for those who are familiar with the I -5 corridor.

Those times of course are traffic dependent. Can be three hours in either direction but so far so good today anyway. And at Linn-Benton, we are a comprehensive community college. We have essentially a few different buckets.

I’ll try to keep this under a minute. So we do lots of credit. – Tell us all about all of them, we love it. – We do lots and lots of credit learning, especially we’re especially well known,

I think for some of our stuff in the manufacturing, advanced manufacturing sectors, strong health programs and a super sweet transfer program with our colleagues at Oregon State.

And a lot of that involves e -learning. And then to a bunch of community outreach and engagement and trying to work, and maybe we’ll get time to talk about this in terms of the future of learning, but trying to make sure that we’re engaging adults around credentials and non -credit stuff.

So that’s what we do at LB and our sweet spot really is providing education for all and helping, we believe that community colleges take the top 100 % of students and we have something for all of them from one to two.

So that’s what we do here. – We take the top 100 % of good students, I love it. So what is it, I mean, I’m not from the Portland area, I’m not from the Oregon area. So what does a typical student look like?

Is it a commuter student? Is it an adult learner? Are these people, you know, is it someone who’s coming out of like a high school situation and wants to, you know, get some credits before they go?

And is it all of the above? – Yeah, I’d say it’s all of the above. I mean, our average age of our students is probably now about 26. So we do typically see then an older,

if you can think of 26 as old, an older student then, you know, then a four year might see and capture, but we do a lot of dual enrollment. So high school credit students coming right out of high school and many students who are just making a stop here for a year or two on the way to a four year degree with one of our partners.

And two, again, talking about re -engaging adult learners, we might see somebody come back in upscale and do a couple of classes between degrees or get a new credential or certificate to try to get a better salary in the workplace.

So there is no such thing as a typical day or a typical student here, which for me is Excellent. Yeah, I was actually, you know,

before the interview, I was perusing your section on the LB website, and I’m guessing it’s probably a common footer that you have there, but it was, it features a particular individual whose name I’m forgetting,

but it was a guy who worked at a mill, and he said, “Look, I wanted to change my career. Now he’s, you know, a nurse.” And I just thought that was a great, like, to see, and I think you call them real stories of people who come in,

and they’re like, “Look, I want to pivot. I want to make a life change, or I want to level up my game somehow.” I, you know, I can even say, even though I am super -dated,

like, I am, you know, I’ve got so much gray hair here, I, you know, I went to Aurora Community College, you know, where I grew up in Colorado, and that was a way for me to get ahead on the college,

you know, the four -year game, you know, to get some credits before I went there, so that the four -year game would be shortened. Tell me about where in 2023,

as we’re starting a new school year, as you and I are recording this, do you mind where do community colleges sit? Where is their, their sweet spot, their importance, like, like, I know that they play a big,

you know, huge role, but help, help, help everyone understand the profundity of that. Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting. It’s been a, a bit of a tumultuous time for our sector as we continue to bounce back from the pandemic.

So, community colleges educate about almost, I think, half of Americans who end up with a bachelor’s degree, half of them started at a community college like you. Lots of,

I assume you did eventually finish that bachelor’s degree somewhere in Colorado. – I got three of them now. So I got three of you. – Yeah, and so you are among millions who have started a community college and then finished their degree.

But we saw during COVID, a lot of students choosing to stop out and drop out. And we’ve been struggling as a sector to re -engage that group of students. And so lots of different phenomena.

Hopefully we can dive into this sort of great education recession and what happened during the pandemic that led to it. But in the meantime, we think of ourselves as the rapid responders for workforce.

And so community colleges are quick, quick to be able to, and more nimble probably than our four year partners at being able to stand up a new program, being able to get somebody trained from being a mill right to being a nurse,

and then also to do things that are a little bit more creative around short -term certificates and credentials. And so that’s where we sit, but really womb to tomb education from early childhood all the way through has something for everyone.

Where we’re trying to go, I think, is to make sure that we’re responding to all the technology and offering students both as students, but then as employees of fluency around the digital skills that they need to succeed in the workplace today.

– Hi there. I’m sorry to break into the show right now, but if you’re enjoying this show, if you are challenged, if you’re inspired, if you’re learning something, if you think that you’re gonna be able to get something out of this to put into your practice, do me a quick favor,

pause right now and just hit subscribe on your podcast player right now. It doesn’t matter which one, just hit subscribe because that way it’ll make sure that you never miss an episode in the future. Thanks. Now,

back to the show. – Before I ask you that next question around digital equity and those pieces, ’cause I think it’s just so top of mind for everyone. Why can a place like LB pivot faster than a four -year place?

Or why do you have the nimbleness with your staff, with your faculty, et cetera, and that isn’t available like Portland State? I mean, why can’t they move as fast as you?

– Well, it’s interesting. I started at a four -year. -year. I have some degrees from four years as well. So I’ve been a student and then an instructor at a four -year. And I think that the way the curriculum is designed in our four -year institutions,

just makes it, because the degrees have a lot of advanced third and fourth year courses or graduate, you know, many of the four years now are seeing graduate as a growth market for them.

And so those are sort of more lockstep. And we’re able to do things that can flip a little bit of that more quickly. And of course, we want students who both learn the skills,

like whether it’s we have machining and welding, like we have nursing, we want them to learn those skills, but also civil discourse, civic engagement,

all of the well, being a well -rounded learner, but we can do it in a way that doesn’t require four to six years. And we can get our faculty tend to be smaller.

They teach, they don’t do research as part of their appointment. And so we hire and evaluate our faculty and the community colleges just based on teaching.

And no knock on the four years. I mean, I was a full professor at a four year, but much more of my evaluation as a professor was based on my scholarship and my grant funding than it was on the teaching,

right? And so we focus on teaching. And I think that that helps us then to really focus on learners and what they need. And we can quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

Now we have bureaucracy. We’re not as quick as we should be, but I think that this sector is one that is more able to, yeah, to do those quick pivots. – So it sounds to me like,

so I guess I want to go backwards for it. You know, the great education recession then, ’cause what you’ve just put on the table there, it sounds to me like the community college system, LB in particular, but I’m gonna say,

I’m gonna assume that your counterparts in other parts of the United States have similar qualities. Why, why, it sounds to me like this would be an absolute no -brainer for somebody who wants to upskill as an adult learner,

or who needs those a few extra credits to either complete a degree or get into that associate’s degree or get something started. So why and how were community colleges hit so dramatically in the pandemic and have had sort of a slower recovery?

– Yeah, there’s probably a few threads to pull apart on that, so come back to me if we don’t get them all. I think one, we tend to serve more vulnerable students, more students who are first gen,

first time to college, and might not have the confidence that they would have if they had been at a four -year or if they had felt like they had more academic preparation.

We get lots of really bright students, but you can be really bright and also concerned about your skills at the same time. So there’s that whole bucket of students who felt like, you know, maybe I’m not set up to succeed in the online education world.

And so as we moved and, you know, we’re a super happy open LMS client at LB, we’ve done great online work for many years, but it hasn’t been at the scale that it was during COVID.

And all of us, you know, really the whole country, but especially in education, overnight had to quickly be able to then deliver almost 100 % of their content remotely.

And so many of our students just weren’t ready for that rapid change. I think a second– – So before you go to point number two, was there, so you started by saying,

you know, they come from a different set of the universe, you know, maybe a little more vulnerable. So were they not ready because they didn’t have devices, because they didn’t have connectivity? Was it just a general,

and this kind of bleeds into our other topic, less savvy digitally in terms of how, you know, getting access, what’s available, those kinds of things, or was there another equation there about why they weren’t necessarily ready to sort of say,

hey, yeah, I can jump into this new platform? I think it’s a couple pieces. I mean, certainly we do see students who are lower income, less likely to have a fancy digital setup at home than students who are higher income.

We certainly serve affluent students as well. But again, when many students hit their first point of entry into college, they were working on their phone rather than on a laptop or a tablet or some other,

you know, fancier device. And even just because we serve a lot of rural students. And so the broadband hasn’t been here in many of our rural, especially low income communities.

And so that’s been a factor as well. And I think, secondly, if I can pivot it a little bit, I think pivots like our word for the day. I had an ACL injury this spring, though,

so I promised my doctor no more for the day. So I’m just going to just stay in my chair and stay still. The pivots are only language -wise today.

But many of our, for our programs and our students, they just weren’t really faced with the skills that they needed to make that change in the classroom.

And poverty underpins all of that, I think. And so as we sort of consider what do we need to do to make sure that they’re ready, you know, the college has done a lot. We provided laptops.

We provided, we opened our parking lots for Wi -Fi space. We’re getting there in terms of broadband access. But we know that we have a lot that we still need to do to help students succeed in the online and remote climate.

Do you remember that point, number two, that you were about to jump to there? Completely. I talked about my shattered ACL and lost it all together. Well, just again,

really thinking about poverty. I mean, that’s one of the backdrops that we think about and the wages. So yes, you got me there, which is that a lot of our students had family members that they needed to care for.

And they were working, you know, at home and we had a lot of single parents, probably 70 % of our students have kids that are helping raise or that they’re raising on their own.

And so then when the pandemic happened, and all of a sudden, we had kids at home doing school with us, I had that at my household too. Those moms and dads chose to focus on the kids’s educational success,

maybe to the to the expense of their own and put their own studies on hold to help their kids get through school, or sometimes maybe they only had one device that they could use as a family.

So they chose to engage the kids in this in school. So we’ve seen that and we don’t have child, you know, there were as a massive child care crisis as well, especially among our lowest income families.

So putting all that together, you’ve got the challenges around sort of confidence in digital literacy, broadband, broadband restrictions. And then finally,

the single parent sort of caregiver phenomenon, I guess it’s not a surprise that you see this enrollment drop at the community colleges. So take me to solutions that Lynn Menten and yourself and others in your position are have,

you know, have been implementing and are looking for, you know, looking forward in over the next four or five years here. I know, correct me if I’m wrong, but something in back of my mind says there was something floated around at least in the US around making community colleges free.

I think that that was a thing. I’m not sure if it ever where it is or where it went. But I know that there was a huge, you know, there was a huge enrollment like sort of fall off after,

you know, during and after the pandemic. And so tell me, how are you closing that gap? And like, what do you see in the, as you’re continuing to move forward? Because you just said getting on here, you’re like, wow, we keep a lot of plates spinning. It’s really busy and things are,

it’s super positive. You kind of came on really positive. So tell me. Yeah, well, we’re actually we’re trending better. I don’t want to jinx anything for fall. You’re knocking wood immediately right now.

Yeah, exactly. We’re on a quarter system in the Northwest still. So LBCC doesn’t start classes for a few more weeks, whereas many of our friends are a couple of weeks into their fall semester already,

but we’re up, our numbers are higher for fall. And some of that is we’ve made some significant investments in our digital infrastructure and trying to, and it’s really a challenge because we’re trying to meet students where they’re at or where we think that they should be.

And we, you know, during COVID, especially at the beginning, there were all these surveys, like survey after survey after survey of students asking them, what do you want in terms of your classes and your class schedule and the array of offerings as we began to come back between fully online,

hybrid or fully in -person. And so students continue to tell us, I want in -person. I want solely in -person. I want 100 % in -person. But then, you know what they register for a lot of online or hybrid.

100%. Yeah, of course. They really want the flexibility. And we’ve, I think, finally found a sweet spot in terms of what that flexibility looks like. They need some interaction with each other.

They need a connection to faculty because we think that the relationship between student and faculty is really central in helping students succeed and get the content and have all of the relational sort of the good stuff that they need around mentoring and career support.

But at the same time, if they’ve got a child care crisis, a sick kid or whatever the case may be, a transportation challenge, they need to be able to pop online, grab that content and stay making progress and keep their forward momentum going toward learning.

So we’ve pushed forward a lot of either hybrid or high -flex content. We think finally we’re seeing students, what we’re offering and what students are wanting matching up better in terms of our course,

the array of course, alignment. And that’s a, you know, it’s hard to guess because academic scheduling has usually been done year over year.

You just take out that old spreadsheet, you do a save as you update the spreadsheet and then, you know, you have just, you’ve just outed, you’ve just outed like every university ever.

Oh my God. You don’t need to find a fancy a software vendor for that. That’s really just how it’s been done. COVID shattered it. Finally, we can bust it up that spreadsheet.

So now we’ve had to rebuild things and figure out not, you know, what have we always done, but what do students need us to do and to help students to figure out that there is, I think,

a strong return on investment for some of their time being done in person on campus. But when and where, just like when we think about the business world,

like you need, it’s great to do some remote time, but what is the best use of the in -person together time? We’ve had to build that out too in higher ed. There’s kind of two things that I’m noodling on right now as you’re talking is the first is how much does this maybe engender or find like a concierge kind of service within LB,

you know, I mean, where it’s like, you know, you usually have like an academic advisor or you have somebody who like, but taking that to another level where they can even really shepherd somebody through a process without babysitting,

obviously, right? Like there’s a certain threshold where it’s like, look, you got to do the work and you got, you know, you got to actually show up. But for a lot of these situations where,

okay, look, you know, mom and dad aren’t paying for college and I’m not, you know, I’m not going to a traditional four year kind of thing. Is that possible or, you know, in your system or is that a thought? You know,

we’re not really funded or set up for that very much. But what we’ve tried to put into place is like is student navigators. So somebody who would, you know would help a student or a prospective student figure out Where do they want to go and how can we help them get there and our goal has been in that There’s no wrong turns and no dead ends So that whatever it is we find something for the student that helps them

keep pushing forward And I’m I’m really immensely concerned about wages being part of that and making sure that students are Getting into fields and programs that are going to have strong family wages for them.

You know housing has gotten very expensive I think all across the country housing is an issue and the pandemic kind of brought that to light as well and really change The way people work and where they work and then as a consequence Especially here on the West Coast change what housing prices look like so for our students We’re just trying to focus on those wage premiums being sustained as well So that’s one of the

things our navigators are thinking about is you know No offense to a six -year degree in poetry, but how about How about 15 weeks of phlebotomy,

right? Yeah, you know and let’s think and then maybe you can pursue your poetry dreams For your next degree. Well, that’s yeah, take me down that path as well because I feel like so often we look at Degree opportunities education offers as these terminal moments where say hey,

I’m gonna okay So you said phlebotomy and so okay, so that’s I’m stuck there, you know, like I get that sense of hey I’ve chosen this and so that’s my end game How much do those navigators are they able to continue that conversation and say hey look here’s the next step,

right? And then you know you could go to this next step and and really it’s about you know That that lifelong learning that lifelong, you know expansion of myself. Does that does that continue to happen?

Yeah, that resonates with me because I think we hear from a lot of people including our employers that now our Careers are more our job training and education is much more iterative than it once was right You don’t just do you know this lockstep degree and then get through it and start a job and stay in that job till the end of Your career it’s much more fluid and so I think that that’s that’s something we need to

make sure that we’re focusing on and to reminding the public of the benefits of education that’s something that we spend a lot of time on out in the community because I think we’ve taken some some public relations hits the student loan crisis and you mentioned earlier free community college and I want to pick up on some of those threads we have to make sure that the the degree really has a strong value and to me

again that has not just social but economic implications that’s something that we’ve got our folks really I think fine -tuning in our student onboarding process and then making sure too that students find a good fit between what they think they want to study what they’re studying and what the work world is ready for.

So the second question that was up there you know in concert with the concierge services is how different does a school day a you know a day of education look like in LB as a as a poster like a traditional four -year university where you know classes could probably would probably be you know morning through afternoon and then you have some graduate classes in the afternoon kind of evening etc.

Do you cater to that kind of you know I have to work during the day and then I’ve got you know the lights are kept on throughout the evening you know kind of that type of thing or does it look different at all like that am I just making that up?

Some of it’s a little bit wishful thinking but some of it’s true I think we use our remote education to be the lights on in the evening and the weekend and I think what how it looks different at LB versus a traditional four -year is that we’re much more likely to have hands -on learning and that’s why we really saw a need to shift during COVID like we had welding instructors instructors who had to learn how to put

their lectures online when they’ve been really hands -on folks all along. We’ve now been able to have some of that flipped classroom and some continuity so that students can have that content available online but yet come to school and get their hands dirty,

whether it’s in welding or phlebotomy or whatnot. So I think in the two -year sector you’re much more likely to see hands -on and applied kinds of learning that are connected to industry.

And we think that that helps because it’s more closely fit with what students are going to do when they finish. So we have a lot of internship, apprenticeship, clinical education.

But that makes sense, right? Because you don’t, I mean, I don’t want to go to a dentist who hasn’t had her or his hands in somebody else’s mouth before mine, right? And this is really the same with,

you know, with welding. And we have here a non -destructive testing for some of the heavy metals in the metals industry here. I want to fly on an airplane that’s been really, really well tested as a YouTuber.

So our students get to practice that. And it’s both, it’s, you know, certainly there’s some theory behind it. But at the same time, it’s much more, again,

rolling up their sleeves and getting, getting to work. And I think our faculty really, they come to teach for us and with our students because they like that. And they really like imparting those skills to students.

So that’s what I think is exciting and dynamic. Now it’s daunting because sometimes we don’t, it’s hard to get faculty who will essentially sometimes take the pay cut to come and work for us instead of being an industry.

But once they’re here and they’re like, seeing those light bulbs come on for students, I think that they really find it to be magical. So yeah, so you say some people leave careers to come, you know, or they make their own career shift to come,

you know, teach and impart their skills. Take me to that path of it sounds like you should or do have have strong ties to local employers or even national employers and those career paths,

like it makes sense that those conversations would not only happen, but that there would be great incentive, especially for sectors and businesses that need employees that they would come and have a handshake with you that says,

look, here are the types of skills we need. Can we build a program around that? Does that happen? – Yeah, it does, absolutely. And then they help us to, sometimes the equipment is phenomenally expensive.

Like I have to, sometimes there are so many zeros on the forms that I’m trying to prove. – Gotta take a deep breath. – I’m like, wow, is this a mistake? But it’s a good investment. And many times our industry partners will help us with some of that sponsorship.

And other times too, they’ll talk about continuing in corporate ed, like what do we need? Can we bring people in on the weekend and work on some of your equipment and let us figure out,

we have for instance, a program in mechatronics, which I didn’t even know what that was, but it’s like. – What the heck is mechatronics? – It’s kind of cool because it’s how to keep assembly lines running.

And when that assembly line is down, it’s super expensive for the company. And everybody stops and they’ve got all of these workers just standing still, which is terrible for productivity.

And so our folks learn from faculty how to diagnose and repair these high tech assembly lines. And we have a couple of local companies who then come and use that equipment on evenings and weekends to train and upscale their workers to make sure that they’re current as well.

And it’s, I think that’s a good example of sort of town and gown, right? The colleges and local industry connecting. And they tell us what’s working and what’s not, how many more graduates they might need.

And we work with them, with the employers too, on making sure that are the wages what we want them to be. And they serve on our advisory boards and let us know what the curriculum should and could look like.

So yeah, we work, I think really, really closely together. and that’s then when we have new businesses that are considering coming to town I always go out and meet them and say here’s why you should come here because we can quickly be your talent acquisition Strategy,

which is exciting. So as as an institution that can pivot I love where this is where this is gone because thread the needle for me in that I Could totally see an industry partner coming to me like okay.

Look we need mechatronics. I need I need these three classes I don’t need any fluff, you know, we need to get them in and out because we need it but there is the case as well to say hey look let’s also round that out with some some Yeah,

digital literacy. Let’s land that out. Let’s let’s let’s round that out with some communication skills. Yes Let’s you know, let’s talk about You know health and bodies so that they you know,

so we like do you get to make that case as well to say look Let’s put some not I don’t want to call it padding because that’s not what it is Let’s let’s make it a more robust offering for either the partner or anyone coming in because the whole person is The one that’s going to be most successful Yes,

and I loved it. You just used mechatronics in a sentence. So You teed me up. I didn’t even know what it was until two and a half minutes ago Yeah,

you know, I think it’s it’s interesting because when we talk about wages, you know, it’s not just money, right? But people who earn more money are healthier. They’re happier They’re more likely to be involved in our civic democracy.

They’re more likely to vote be part of democracy Uh, have a library card have a passport like, you know, you and I share a passive passion I think for for global education and world travel and I believe that that should be afforded to every student And so we get to work with our industry partners to say,

yeah If you’re worried about soft skills and I get really tired of students getting beat up for soft skills These essential skills that that you need for the workplace if you’re worried about retention and turnover in your employees,

then let’s build in some of that other stuff, critical thinking, communication, and a bit more digital literacy, and really world literacy into the content.

And so I think folks are, I think the pandemic and then the labor shortage have helped employers be more open to that than they once were. It’s not just work this assembly line,

right, or do these x -rays or do these blood draws, but be a part of a highly functioning, good communicating workplace. So we’re getting there,

but I think that actually there’s a long way that we could go in that to help students really be able to succeed more in these lifelong learning entities. I’m gonna,

I’m more gonna pivot one more time here. We can do it. As, as, as, because now where what I’m interested to know is as someone in the community college space, how has the advent of these,

you know, AI, generative AI products, someone like, you know, so anybody coming to you from industry right now saying, hey, look, you know, those, those, and those needs that we said we had 18 months ago,

we’re replacing them now with bots, you know, those kinds of things like talk to me, talk me through like what you’ve been thinking through over the summer before this school year, you know, how your institution is responding, what you’ve seen,

how it’s impacted you, all of that stuff. – That’s almost a whole separate show, but let’s, let’s dive in. What’s interesting, AI is the topic of our fall in service. We have some really cool speakers coming to talk about it,

but you know, this is something that’s been coming, right? It’s been on the horizon. – Well, but I love that you’ve said that though, but then why is it that every time I talk to somebody else in education, they’re like, it’s like a deer in headlights.

– We shouldn’t be shocked by this. I think what we’re now seeing people focus on more, at least in the education spaces. Oh my gosh, how do we know that this paper was really written by a student and not by some sort of,

you know, chat bot? You know, come on, this has been happening, it’s been coming, COVID probably made it, some of it happened more quickly, But AI has been a backdrop of a lot of our work for a while now.

So how are we responding and figuring that out? Our industry partners are saying, we need folks to work more quickly and more rapidly on some of the equipment that we’re going to be acquiring,

you know, and we’ll get there. We’ll do some of that training. But I think that focusing on making sure that we have academic integrity right now has been has been one way that we’ve seen a response demanded for by faculty.

Faculty want to be able to verify that a student has written their paper. But this is not again, that’s not new. That’s not new. We just are now seeing the software really eclipse our ability to prepare to train for it.

So we’ve got our work cut out for us, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Sure. So, okay, so take me to the next layer, just sort of, you know, a couple more questions for you here. Beyond,

okay, it’s beyond academic integrity, right? Which is, I kind of feel like that’s it’s a softball. That’s an easy question for any professor for anyone in education to be, okay, like,

how do I do this? But what about, you know, how that’s going to change the workplace in general or how that’s going to change, you know, the future of what work might look like?

And more importantly, I just know what he seems to want to talk about, what are we doing with all this time that we’re getting back? Like, what are the students doing with the time they’re like, okay, so if I can now generate a response to,

you know, a written assignment in a quarter of the time, or even if it’s half the time, what am I doing with that other half, you know, that other portion of time that I’m getting? And then teachers as well, you know,

if I can generate a lesson plan or put together my, my curriculum for the, for the semester, you know, in literally minutes now, what am I doing at that time? Do you ever get to have those conversations? You know, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about is,

is this opens up for us. It’s always an opportunity, right? It gives us a chance to then figure out Okay Where is what is the nexus of that that?

Connection and relationship because I believe education to be highly relational even if it’s facilitated through Remote and hybrid education. It’s still highly Relational and it’s about how we connect to each other.

So chat GPT and AI are to me alternate modes of Connection and communication but it but still there are humans behind it So when we when we ponder how that fits in the workplace One of the things to me is there’s gonna need to be somebody who programs and repairs and is the technician on all of this Equipment and we in the two -year space are probably pretty well positioned as we talked about earlier To be rapid

responders With that so we might see then a chance to do the the repair and the technology behind it There’s a lot of coding there There’s a whole lot of the that’s way way beyond my ability to comprehend what the technology is But you need humans in the end to do a lot of that work So that’s one of the things that I think would be kind of exciting to talk about with faculty this fall and Yeah,

I agree moving beyond the academic integrity stuff if you have a good strong connection to your students You’re less worried because you you are probably more able to grade their work and have a sense that it’s legitimately turned in All right by a student who who was an author of the content You know,

but I think all of that just continues to bring it back to the need for us to have Relationships both with industry and with faculty and students And I think you can get that well here because we have pretty small class or instructor to student ratios It’s going to be fascinating to see how this evolves when you’ve got a class or three or four hundred students How did they,

how did they in the past verify that it was really, you know, legitimate work and how will they now? But fortunately, we don’t have any classes that are over like 30, 35 people. So that’s, that’s out of my wheelhouse in terms of the many,

many things I’m losing sleep over. That’s not among them. Well, then I’m going to give you one last question because, you know, we teed this conversation up with, you know, digital equity as a key issue and the great education recession.

Talk to me about you’re about to enter the 23, 24 school year at LB. What is that? What does this next year look like in terms of closing those gaps in terms of, you know, you said you’re on an upward trend as well as,

you know, you know, things are looking bright. But like, what does that next year, maybe two years look like in terms of bringing more digital equity into this conversation or providing more,

getting more support from sponsors, from partners, those kinds of things, you know, make the case for us. Yeah, one of the things that I think that we don’t talk enough about in education is social mobility,

right, is this notion that students need, particularly in the community college space where we educate a vast majority of the US in the US of underserved,

low income learners, right, and getting those folks on a path that’s going to help bring down social costs, like incarceration, homelessness, drug use, etc. So using education as a prevention tool and helping to,

I think we saw so much during COVID isolation, and we saw how fragile the safety net is for many of the families in our country, and especially in our rural areas.

So when we put all of those things together and blend them up for what is our answer for as we embark on the school year, one of the things that LB is working on is shortening the time to degree and even just really blowing up some of the silos that higher ed were kind of famous for,

I guess, acronyms and silos and ways that we create these silos to make sense of the world. And so no offense to that, but I think we need to bust up those silos between credit and non -credit,

between workforce and transfer, right? Because really everybody who comes to us, especially in the two -year sector, they’re here because they wanna get a job.

So it’s all career education. Whether you’re going to go to grad school like I did or whether you’re going to stop with a two -year degree or even like a 15 -week certificate,

that’s all workforce. So we need to stop trying to funnel students and track students into workforce versus transfer. It’s all about workforce and social mobility and about propelling people to a better life because they have higher earnings.

And so I believe in our country, there’s lots and lots of talent. Talent is universal, but opportunity is not. And so in the community college world,

we are a great place to bring talent and opportunity together. So our challenge, I don’t know what it’s gonna look like is to break those silos down and hope that our funders and our creditors and everybody who helps to make sure that we are doing the right thing for the right students in terms of our kind of quality management and the quality assurance that they can live with it,

right? That we break up the silos and focus more on the skills that students need for the workforce of today and less bureaucracy and silos. So wish us luck ’cause we got our work cut out for us,

but I think it’s exciting stuff. – This is absolutely fantastic. I could talk to you for the next two hours about this, but I know that I’m gonna give you back 20 minutes so that you can catch up and you don’t have to sprint to your next meeting.

But thank you so much for taking the time out of your pre -school year hustle bustle to talk to us about not only what’s happening, but what’s important and that vision for the future.

Absolutely fantastic, thank you so much. – My pleasure, very much enjoyed it. Have a great rest of your day. – Thank you again for listening to the Elon Podcast here from Open LMS. I just wanted to ask one more time,

if you enjoyed this show, if you learned something, if you were inspired, if you were challenged, if you feel like this is something you can take into your practice, please do me a favor. And right now, on your podcast player,

hit subscribe. That way you’re never going to miss a future episode. Also, come over to elernmagazine .com and subscribe there as well because we have tons of great information about how to create killer online learning outcomes.


One Response

  1. Great article! I’m a recent college graduate and I know first-hand how difficult it is to find good, affordable education. I’m glad to see that there are people out there working to make digital equity a reality.

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