Page 16 - Campus Technology, October/November 2020
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STUDENT SERVICES dian schaffhauser
7 Ways to Show Students You Care
This Pennsylvania community college uses a combination of fun, funding and informing to keep learners in the fold.
COMMUNITY COLLEGES HAVE A TOUGH JOB when it comes to generating fuzzy feelings among their students. Typically, students commute, which means they aren’t immersed in campus activities to the same extent that residential students are. The colleges’ stadiums and are- nas don’t draw tens of thousands of enthusi- astic alumni fans to watch school teams play to victory. And more of their students are part-time (62 percent for fall 2019 enroll- ment) than full-time (38 percent). The effort of playing up campus spirit has become more challenging now that most students are stay- ing home for their education. Largely absent for many community college students, for example, is the connection of belonging to a small cohort going elbow-to-elbow through the same job training regimen. Preliminary numbers from the National Student Clearing- house show that enrollment in public two- year colleges for fall 2020 is down by 7.5 per- cent, the largest drop of enrollment in any undergraduate segment.
Rather than giving into this downward drift, however, Harrisburg Area Community Col- lege in Pennsylvania is pulling out all the stops to engage students in the life of the college. Even though the school has already announced plans to have its campus remain closed through the spring 2021 semester, a combina- tion of cornball antics and well-considered business decisions with financial implications is keeping students in the fold.
Here are seven ways HACC (pronounced “hack”) is reaching out to its students.
1) Cover Tech Needs
Yes, every school in America has struggled to outfit students with laptops and access to the internet. HACC heard early on from students that many had old computers without web- cams or had to do their online work outside of businesses or libraries with WiFi. The school jumped into action, purchasing and lending out laptops, mobile hotspots and webcams to students. And it’s still doing that, said John “Ski” Sygielski, president and CEO of HACC.
The college also realized it had to provide training to students, average age 25, on the technology that was being used — particu- larly Zoom. “It’s not hard. We’re grateful that the technology is easy,” explained Ski. “But training programs for the students was an important piece.”
2) Make Communicating “Huge”
Communication at HACC takes the form of online forums and regular e-mails. Every week, Ski hosts a college-wide Zoom event. For a while those were dedicated twice a month to students in particular, to find out what they were struggling with and how the school could help. They’ve since backed the student forums off to once a month. Those are recorded and made available online.
The e-mails have been just as important. The

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