Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of Ivy Tech’s Pathways to Information Technology grant, which enhanced the college’s Information Technology (IT) training courses, on education outcomes for community college students.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using site visits and interviews, surveys, and reviews of program documents and administrative data.
- The study found that students and faculty felt positive about the changes made to the IT programs through the grant activities, though students needed more support to fully engage with the new advising approach and faculty needed additional support to engage with industry (e.g., providing job or internship referrals, receiving employer feedback).
- The study report lacks detail on the methods for selecting and recruiting interview participants, analysis methods, and other data collection training and quality assurance procedures. What detail is provided, however, indicates that the study approach was appropriate for the objective of the study.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in April 2020.
Ivy Tech’s TAACCCT IT program
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: Community college
- Location/setting: Indiana
- Population served and scale: Adults; Low-skilled; 19,089 participants
- Industry focus: Professional, scientific, and technical services
- Intervention strategies: Career pathways; Student support services; Technology
- Organizational partnerships: Industry vendors
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Not included
Ivy Tech’s Pathways to Information Technology project was funded with a four-year, $2.5 million U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant in 2014. The project served to update and enhance training programs and courses offered at Ivy Tech’s School of Information Technology (IT) across its 19 campuses to ensure that Ivy Tech’s 19,089 IT students graduated with up-to-date, industry-relevant skills. The enhancements focused on implementing hands-on learning opportunities through the use of actual equipment rather than simulators; updating the guided pathways for IT students; creating a new approach to student advising; increasing employer engagement; and hosting IT competitions.
Important partners included the public workforce and adult education system, IT businesses, and other TAACCCT grantees. The grant allowed Ivy Tech to purchase equipment and build out dedicated IT labs, physical data centers, and a virtual data center. The school created, tested, and launched a new online advising tool, provided professional development opportunities for faculty to learn new instructional approaches, and developed prior learning assessment protocols to inform guided pathways. Conducting IT3C-S competitions and building statewide and local employer advisory boards allowed the school to engage with employers and showcase its students. Building partnerships with the workforce system facilitated enrollment into IT programs. These efforts were expected to help participants complete their selected program of study, obtain credentials, and earn credits. This in turn would allow them to further their education, gain or retain employment, and increase wages. The intervention was in its fourth year of operation when the study ended.
Features of the Study
The implementation evaluation sought to explore execution of the Pathways to Information Technology project from a variety of perspectives. The research team conducted interviews with School of IT faculty and advisors and focus groups with IT program students at two campuses; they conducted telephone interviews with faculty and advisors at four additional campuses. They also invited School of IT faculty and students from all campuses to participate in surveys (one for faculty, one for students). For context, the research team reviewed program documents and student administrative records data. The research team explained that they triangulated data from multiple sources to support their findings but did not describe their approach to qualitative or quantitative analysis.
- The study found that students and faculty were positive about the addition of hands-on learning features, though program staff had lingering questions about the sustainability of hands-on learning given the approach of using donated, out of commission equipment.
- The study found that faculty and staff were positive about changes to the advising model but were not using the new tools as intended, and that students were not fully engaged with the new model and had unmet needs.
Implementation challenges and solutions
- The study found that faculty needed additional support to engage with industry (e.g., job or internship referrals, receiving employer feedback).
- The study found that leveraging in-kind contributions and donations from vendors helped keep the IT competitions affordable for the college.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
While the researchers did not provide specific research questions beyond the study objective, the study design was appropriate to address the objective of understanding program implementation from a variety of perspectives. It was appropriate because they engaged a variety of stakeholders, including IT faculty members, student advisors, faculty champions, central college staff, other staff members, and students, all of whom provided a different perspective on program implementation. Further, the researchers allowed more perspectives to be heard by diversifying their data collection, using in-person interviews and focus groups, telephone interviews, surveys of both faculty and students, and document review. The authors did not note any limitations.