New Frontiers in Delivering Higher Education for the Public Sector

By 08/27/2019Learning, Press

Community colleges are under increasing pressure to deliver a comprehensive curriculum that meets their students’ higher education goals, particularly over large geographic areas in a cost-effective way. Reductions in government funding in higher education over time have limited some schools from hiring more specialist teachers to provide accredited courses in accessible locations. Rural K12 schools have similar issues. In addition, many students who are also working adults are challenged by making time available for classes, commuting long distances to school, and covering tuition fees. Higher education institutions such as Arapahoe Community College (ACC), a public community college with locations in Littleton, Parker, and Castle Rock, Colorado, are leveraging new technology in innovative ways to bridge the gap between delivering a quality education at scale, making it accessible for a wide and diverse range of students, and stabilizing education costs.

ACC’s existing approach to engaging remote students via their Desire2Learn learning management system has provided an important tool in the college’s online and hybrid curriculum. However, Eric Dunker, Associate Vice President and Dean of Business, Technology, and Workforce Partnerships at Arapahoe Community College, has been looking for ways to advance the community college model and expand their collaborative
learning capabilities.

In March 2019, ACC received a generous donation from the Sturm Family Foundation to provide funding for innovative technology and support within a new collaboration campus in Castle Rock, one of the fastest-growing communities in the state of Colorado. The new campus, named the “Sturm Collaboration Campus”, opens to students on August 19th. It is a pioneering venture that brings together ACC’s partnerships with Douglas County School District, Colorado State University System, and the South Denver metro business community to provide a seamless pathway to a degree or workforce training.

Revisioning a Higher Education Campus
The Sturm Collaboration Campus will offer high-quality, affordable, higher education programs to help students transition from the classroom into careers, to complete their associate degrees, and to continue to full bachelor degree programs. ACC is utilizing SyncRTC’s video collaboration technology to enable the delivery of a more accessible, collaborative higher education curriculum. The facility includes one lecture theatre with 18 ultra-high-definition digital panels hosting the Room of the Future configured to support 40 remote students in a blended learning environment, alongside five dual-screen Delegate Rooms in smaller classrooms. The technology driving the Room of the Future and Delegate Rooms will allow the students and teacher to interact virtually in real-time to simulate a physical classroom session, including share presentations and documents; co-browse images and videos; engage in chat, virtual breakout rooms, and whiteboarding; and conduct polling, among other features. ACC plans to leverage the technology to serve concurrent enrollment students in area high schools, rural adult students who may be place-bound, workers in apprenticeships who are at work locations during class, and industry organizations who will lease ACC’s state-of-the-art board room to broadcast their meetings anywhere
around the globe.

By engaging at Sturm Collaboration Campus, ACC aims to help its students and young entrepreneurs go beyond simply obtaining an education to participating in a broader business community. By facilitating remote connections with students and other businesses globally, can help enhance students’ participation in ACC’s ideation hub to continue their conversations outside school, develop best practices, and ultimately stimulate their intellectual growth.
“It allows anyone who wants to learn a new skill, to go to school,” said Donald Sturm, chairman and founder of the Sturm Family Foundation, owner of ANB Bank and developer of The Meadows in Castle Rock, where the campus is located. “You can learn a trade or you can work toward a four-year program through the collaboration with Colorado State University. It is a significant undertaking and major opportunity to impact many lives.”

Preparing Students for College
In addition to serving their higher education student body, ACC will support thousands of students from multiple high schools in the counties that the community college serves namely Douglas, Arapahoe, and South Jefferson counties. In this geographically large area, delivering quality education and a comprehensive curriculum to all is both economically and logistically challenging. ACC offers concurrent enrollment classes to enable its community high school students to take accredited classes locally to earn college credit. Typically, concurrent enrollment classes at ACC have been delivered in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment. However, ACC’s plan is to leverage’s virtual video collaboration technology so more high school students can access their accredited courses without having to be on campus.

Enabling Part-time Working Students
ACC also recognizes that the sooner students can complete their higher education, the bigger the cost savings. However, many ACC students are already part of the workforce. As Eric Dunker explains, “relying solely on face-to-face learning has its challenges as most adult learners and part-time students have limited time and resources to travel to campus.” Simply pushing students to engage in remote, asynchronous learning is not the entire answer either. Students can benefit from real-time feedback and collaborative immersive learning experiences to make personal connections with their professors and fellow students. “If face-to-face is not an option, with technology we have the ability to support those students in a flexible learning environment that simulates being in class and allows them to feel connected. This enhanced engagement and improved accessibility will help students to complete their pathway in a more dynamic and efficient manner.”

“The Sturm Collaboration Campus will allow remote access to higher education more easily and offer new opportunities to the wider community through the platform, where every student has a front-row seat. We are delighted to be part of ACC’s digital innovation” said Victor Sanchez, CEO and Co-founder of SyncRTC.

Ensuring students are fully supported to achieve their goals is equally critical. ACC’s approach to this issue required a reorganization of student support teams with the introduction of “Campus Navigators” and learning technologist champions. Providing a combination of on-campus and online learning programs to support students in the workplace, and giving them access to specialized subject experts, will create new more flexible ways of learning. ACC sees this as the new frontier in higher education. “Using technology such as’s Room of the Future will play a key role in the future delivery of our higher education,” says Eric Dunker.

Re-Skilling the Workforce
Beyond delivering traditional higher education, there are opportunities for educators to partner with local businesses in the community to assist working professionals in developing skillsets that meet their needs and help organizations retain their employees. ACC is already working with Centura Health, the largest healthcare provider in Colorado with more than 21,000 employees, to develop a continuing education curriculum for their employees. In August 2018, both organizations launched Colorado’s largest registered Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program designed to meet local workforce requirements.

The human resource costs of hiring, training and ultimately providing on-the-job experience to employees to reach maximum efficiency is expensive. In the case of ACC’s partnership with Centura Health, the entire program was funded by the Colorado Workforce Development Council, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Centura Health, and Colorado First and Existing Industry Grants (CFEI).

Another key consideration for organizations is that employee retention rates are on the decline. According to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey in 2018 statistics show that “the millennial generation and Generation Z are less loyal than their predecessors and pessimistic about their future.” Creating symbiotic partnerships with community colleges, universities and local businesses is not a new concept, but by adding collaborative technology like, companies can insert innovative virtual education into their training environments to help maximize employees’ time in the office, steer them towards continuing their personal development, and encourage them to stay at companies longer.