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How Hostos Community College Went Hi-Tech

By BETH HARPAZ

Hostos Community College is located in the Bronx, in one of the country’s poorest congressional districts. Its student body is 57% Hispanic, 21% African American, and 67% female. Many students are first-generation college attendees juggling jobs, long commutes, and family responsibilities in addition to classes.

But Hostos’ mission is not just to provide these students a path to a college degree. It’s also to help them achieve technological proficiency as a building block for 21st century success.

Toward that goal, in 2010, Hostos launched an educational technology initiative. In less than a decade, the school became a national model for incorporating technology into classrooms, curricula, teaching, and learning. A recent book, The Development of Educational Technology at an Urban Community College, tells the story. Co-editors and contributors include Carlos Guevara, director of Hostos’ Office of Educational Technology, and Professors Kate Wolfe, Kate Lyons, Kristopher Bryan Burrell, Amy Ramson, and Elys Vasquez-Iscan among others.

From 2010 to 2018, the number of course sections offered online at Hostos rose from 50 to 231. Fully online courses have more than doubled to 50. Just as important, many professors now videotape their in-person lectures and post them online using a platform called Panopto. Students who miss class or don’t understand something can review them at their convenience. Use of that system doubled from 7,000 views and 80,000 minutes in the 2016-17 school year, to 14,000 visits and 165,000 minutes in 2017-18.

Assessments indicate that Hostos students fare just as well in online courses as they do in person. And Hostos’ tech-enhanced courses — which include everything from in-class use of iPads to professors putting course material online — have higher passing rates and higher completion rates than Hostos courses that don’t use ed tech.

There’s also a push among faculty and librarians to curate and create free, online course materials — known as Open Educational Resources — wherever possible because so many students can’t afford the exorbitant cost of textbooks.

Hostos’ efforts — which include supporting students and faculty in learning how to use tech tools — have been widely recognized. The school won CUNY’s Excellence in Technology award, and the Center for Digital Education has ranked it eight times among the country’s top 10 digital community colleges. The book details the “strategies, structures, and struggles” that created this successful model, with a goal of guiding similar initiatives elsewhere.