The National Convergence Technology Center was established to meet the growing need for skilled specialists in the area of Convergence Technology and Home Technology Integration.
The CTC pulls together the strengths of regional and national educational institutions and business and industry partners to create a pool of qualified convergence technicians who can design, build, test, secure and troubleshoot communication infrastructure and devices in the convergence technology arena, both for enterprise and home markets
The National Convergence Technology Center is funded by the National Science Foundation. As an ATE National Center of Excellence, the CTC has built upon its solid network of partner and mentored colleges, whose number and reach has grown since 2004, to address emerging converged technologies and to assist colleges across the nation to implement high-demand convergence degree and certificate programs.
Tree Illustration by Mark Dempsey, January 2014.
This center has four primary goals.
Goal 1. Program improvement to meet workforce needs:
Objective A: Build on CTC Business & Industry Leadership Team “best-in-class” model (BILT) to create consistent regional BILTs connected to a national BILT team to a) identify emerging trends so that courses and programs can be updated prior to the actual workforce need, b) provide internships and externships, and c) provide speakers for classes and workshops
Objective B: Hold annual Cloud and Emerging Convergence summit, bringing together leaders in business and education to help forecast trends in Cloud computing and other emerging convergence technology and how curriculum needs to evolve to address trends.
Objective C: Update classroom and online curriculum per annual job task analysis, ensuring coverage of Cloud computing and BILT-determined other needed technologies.
Objective D: Offer regular workshops on emerging convergence technology topics for high school and community college faculty, including winter and some summer Working Connections IT Faculty Development Institutes, day-long workshops for faculty and counselors, and professional development through NCICT. Workshops will be distributed to locations nationally through web-conferencing and video streaming.
Objective E: Update classroom and online curriculum per annual job task analysis, ensuring coverage of Cloud computing and BILT-determined other needed technologies.
Goal 2. Provide access for technology-enabled instructional support systems to assist colleges in launching convergence programs:
Objective A: Support and provide access to virtual laboratories to support inexpensive and pervasive online national delivery of non-vendor-specific and vendor-specific "hands-on" laboratories to address emerging convergence topics; colleges need only Internet access rather than full equipment labs.
Objective B: Develop and broadly implement virtual internship/externship model for capstone.
Goal 3. Increase the number of degree/certificate completers ready to meet workforce needs:
Objective A: Refine stackable certificates for convergence technology, building on the work of the DOL grant.
Objective B: Using BAIT program at University of North Texas as a model, mentor university partners and 2-year colleges with convergence programs in creating similar programs.
Goal 4. Capacity Building/Dissemination:
Objective A: Expand the Convergence College Network Program with Partner Centers at more mature mentored colleges across the nation to increase the number of colleges that can be reached through mentoring.
Objective B: Mentor at least 10 more colleges per year in developing their Convergence Technology programs using processes and curriculum from the CTC.
Objective C: Function as a national distribution center to disseminate all processes, curriculum and the mentoring processes through webinars, through the CTC website, NCICT partnership and by presenting at conferences.
1. Program improvement to meet workforce needs:
- Established the National Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT), a group of IT industry thought leaders, who forecast market needs and provide industry trends on a national level to assist mentored colleges. BILT meeting attendance in 2013 more than doubled the attendance of comparable meetings in 2012, thanks in part to the addition of a separate BILT from the National Information, Security, and Geospatial Technologies Consortium (NISGTC).
- Continued to co-sponsor the regional “Cloud and Emerging Convergence Summit” conference that exposes a diverse audience of educators to the work of the National CTC. One of the conference’s concurrent tracks is programmed by the National CTC, allowing representatives from its mentored colleges to offer best-practices presentations.
- Updated curriculum by asking the BILT to analyze current knowledge, skills, and abilities lists for convergence classes, insuring the content remained relevant and up-to-date.
- Hosted professional training events called “Working Connections IT Faculty Development Institute.” These annual events (three days in December, five days in July) allow IT educators from around the country to learn in-depth a specific topic they can then teach at their home school. Working Connections has reached over 470 educators since 2004. In the last four years, Working Connections training has directly led to the creation of over 150 new degrees, certificates, specializations, or courses and impacted over 37,600 students and faculty members.
- Assisted the expansion of the five-day summer Working Connections event to other regions: South (Florida) and North (alternating Michigan and Wisconsin). The National CTC provided best practice documents regarding event implementation and an "instructor bureau" list of Working Connections trainer candidates.
2. Provide access for technology-enabled instructional support systems to assist colleges in launching convergence programs:
- Provided more and more virtual labs that allow students to complete labs anytime, anyplace 24-7 so long as they have internet access.
- Implemented a pilot virtual internship/externship that gave students the opportunity to present capstone project solutions to a “jury” of industry executives and simulate a real-world business environment.
3. Increase the number of degree/certificate completers ready to meet workforce needs:
- Developed more “stackable certificates,” smaller collections of classes that allow schools to align certificates to degrees, to better quantify “completers,” and to provide students the skills that are most in-demand. These smaller certificates “stack” to a degree.
- Continued transferring students to the BA in Information Technology at the University of North Texas. This program continues to show climbing enrollment, increasing from 42 in its inaugural semester in Fall 2008 to 100 students in Fall 2012, when the school increased transfer credits from 18 to 21. An ABET accreditation evaluation is scheduled for Fall 2013. To further broaden the reach, UNT is pursuing both a transition of the BAIT degree to an online format and a network of “mentored universities” to more seamlessly transfer two-year convergence students to its four-year program.
4. Capacity Building: Function as a Regional Distribution Center.
- Mentored 32 colleges around the country in a “community of practice” (with a goal of adding ten more colleges per year) that evaluates and updates their programs, creates their business teams, modifies/created degree and certificate programs, recruits students. This group meets quarterly, twice on the phone and twice in person to deliver updates on their programs’ progress or presentations detailed recent challenges or successes. This group is divided into three tiers based on each school’s level of participation.
- Recruited nine (included in the 32) community colleges to join the “community of practice” - Calhoun Community College in Alabama, Century College in Minnesota, Ferris State University in Michigan, Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska, Milwaukee Area Technical College in Wisconsin, Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri, Tallahasee Community College in Florida, Waukesha Technical College in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Indianhead Community College in Wisconsin.
- Started a new “community of practice” of administrations that will provide a separate, quarterly forum to discuss best practices unique to that group.
- Promoted services and programs, including strategies to develop a successful BILT, through presentations and exhibition booths at the MPICT Mid-Winter Conference, League for Innovation Conference, and HI TEC.
- Developed a robust set of digital platforms to disseminate program information, promote events, and increase the National CTC’s overall outreach. In addition to a traditional website, the National CTC regularly updates a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, and a LinkedIn group. The National CTC also pushes content out through a weekly blog and a monthly newsletter. Wikispaces is also an important sharing tool for events and best practices documents.