At its height, the global coronavirus pandemic forced some changes in course and service delivery at South Arkansas Community College, as it did at most educational institutions. When that happened, insufficiencies were revealed that made the unanticipated shift to online instruction more challenging for students and teachers alike.
In an effort to close those gaps, SouthArk sought—and, its representatives recently learned, was awarded—an Institutional Resilience and Expanded Post-Secondary Opportunity Grant from the U.S. Department of Education in the amount of more than $380,000.
This grant is intended to provide additional support for online learners, improve technology skills for both students and faculty, enhance Internet access for students in rural areas, improve online curriculum and reduce the cost of college attendance.
The grant will create a new service aimed at providing a single point of contact for the technical problems of online students, operated by a concierge. Through a partnership with the Southeast Regional Library System, it will provide improved WiFi access at eight rural libraries. Additionally laptop computers will be available for contactless checkout and may be utilized by students for up to a full semester.
The grant also will fund professional development for instructors who will revise their courses to utilize what are known as open educational resource textbooks, which are free for students to use.
These initiatives will be implemented at SouthArk in the coming months. For information about becoming a SouthArk student, see www.southark.edu/info.