Providing quality online learning experiences for rural students



Technologies to engage non-traditional rural college students

Last year, the Montcalm Community College added Logitech rally systems to most of its learning environments to improve the quality of distance learning courses.

Educators have also started to use digital inking instead of traditional whiteboards, allowing them to write by hand on digital devices with a stylus, mouse or touchpad. “It’s really caught on,” Kevin Wagenmaker, the college’s educational technology consultant, said at the conference. This way, in-person and remote students could all collaborate with the instructor on the same visually appealing whiteboard.

Montcalm also used Microsoft Whiteboard, a digital whiteboard app from the Microsoft 365 Suite, and incorporated document cameras in Nearpod, Microsoft Surveys, and other engagement software. The tools all integrated well with the online courses, which were facilitated by Microsoft teams.

Being able to automate planning has changed that, Wagenmaker says. “What really helped us this year was the integration of Microsoft sync into Canvas,” said Wagenmaker. “Our teams are based on our Canvas course lists, and they sync when students leave or are added to the list.”

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The infrastructure to support flexible e-learning experiences

Above all, the college precedent cloud investments has proven to be essential for a smooth transition to distance learning. “We’ve made a big investment in cloud-based solutions over the past two years,” Montcalm IT director David Kohn said at the conference.

The college took a forward-thinking approach and began planning for the eventual return of students to campus soon after the start of the pandemic. “When the pandemic hit, we took the opportunity to invest in our basic infrastructure,” he said, which included both wired and wireless infrastructure.

In this way, the college networks and systems were ready to support in-person and hybrid learning, as well as synchronous and asynchronous options for non-traditional students.


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