The Technology Success Center (TSC) at Crafton Hills College (CHC) is dedicated to creating pathways using technology to meet the learning needs of students and faculty. A part of the Disabled Students and Programs Services (DSPS) Department, the Center’s purpose is to create equal access for students, which is a need that has expanded this year with mandatory distance learning.
“Our goal is to leverage COVID-19 by integrating key technologies in a way that would take us safely into our ‘new normal,'” said Suzanne Delahanty, alternative media and assistive technology specialist at CHC. “COVID was a turning point; it justified a drastic rethinking of how we train and support students and faculty. Overnight, we had to identify how to leverage available technologies, to not just technologically transform traditional training and support methods, but also improve them. Going entirely remote provided us with the rare opportunity to quickly research and invest in promising virtual technology that will undoubtedly continue to support our college for years to come.”
Delahanty estimates that since the initial campus closures due to the pandemic, the Center has served more than 500 students and worked with more than 100 faculty to expand accessibility and success in distance learning.
Delahanty provided an example of how the Center has helped by telling of a student named Dan (not his real name) with visual impairments. He told her that reading was difficult for him but that his psychology textbook was unavailable in a digital format. She contacted the book’s publisher and requested that the company make a digital copy, but they refused, so she manually scanned the textbook page-by-page into editable text, which he was able to use with a screen-reader. She also created audio files from the screen-reading so that he would be able to listen to each of the chapters individually.
As a new student with disabilities, Dan was shy and seemed lonely, so Delahanty invited him to the Psychology Club, an organization on campus made up of both students and faculty. After attending for some time, the organization chair shared with Delahanty that Dan had told club members that he was grateful to her — both for introducing him to other people and helping him in the TSC so that he could get through his studies. Other students agreed that they had received help through the TSC.
“To hear that secondhand, of course, I started to cry,” Delahanty said. “Because that’s what we live for. I think that we really made a difference in his life.”
Another student she provided services for was Brian (not his real name). He dreamed of going to college, but his parents weren’t sure that he would be able to due to severe disabilities including being unable to speak or use his hands, and being bound to a wheelchair. After researching, Delahanty found a technology called the Tobi Dynavox that allowed Brian to control a mouse with his retinas, which allowed him to continue pursuing his dream of college.
As an ongoing service to all students, the Center offers on-demand technology support with commonly used platforms and apps. The Center also offers expertise for students like Dan and Brian, by which supplemental technology for study, research and notetaking will make the difference in their success. Delahanty often shares resources like voice dictation, audio transcription, audio recording, speech-to-text, screen-readers, writing and reading aids, and smart-pen use to increase students’ accessibility and opportunity for success.
TSC also offers support to faculty and staff in the form of on-demand, live support, recorded tutorials, group training sessions and online resources. One such resource, found at craftonhills.edu/faculty-and-staff/online-teaching/accessibility, compiles extensive resources for supporting and accommodating DSPS students. The Center also regularly offers recommendations on all aspects of distance learning to support students both with and without disabilities.
Another service the Center offers are items for loan use, including tablets, iPads, smart pens, digital pencils and keyboards. Additionally, the TSC has digitized formerly in-person processes for the college, including DSPS forms, e-book requests and checking out assistive technology hardware. Delahanty also recently certified nearly 100 faculty members to teach Accessible Online Courses at Crafton Hills College.
“Technology has really been able to level the playing field, but it does have to have the human component,” Delahanty said. “You have to have someone helping the students and getting them through it. The human element will always be there. Technology will never replace teachers.”
To support its work, TSC has received Distance Education and Captioning and Transcription (DECT) grant funding of $170,000, which will be used to provide broad captioning services to support all students. Other plans include further developing online digital forms and requests across programs and developing a training resource to be linked in courses on Canvas for students to get support with free Microsoft 365 tools.
To learn more about the TSC, visit craftonhills.edu/current-students/technology-success-center.