Rio Salado College: Founding Member of College Innovation Network Helps to Guide EdTech Student Success Pilot Program

Annette Flores
Member Spotlight

The College Innovation Network (CIN) announced on August 4, 2020, the names of higher education organizations which will serve as founding partners in its pilot year, including Rio Salado College. CIN was launched in the spring by WGU Labs, Inc., with support from the Charles Koch Foundation, and is designed to connect leaders from colleges and universities with educational technology (EdTech) innovators to advance students’ academic, career, and life outcomes.

“This CIN pilot will provide resources for us to continue and expand upon our long-standing heritage of developing innovative solutions to support and empower students wherever they may be,” said Rio Salado Interim President Kate Smith. She continued,

Online learning, technology, and data analytics are core components of our operations, which have helped us serve a greater number of students, assess learning outcomes, identify achievement gaps, and ensure equitable instruction. We are honored to serve as a founding CIN member and look forward to sharing and developing strategies and tools to help educators track and improve student learning and outcomes.

According to Dr. Omid Fotuhi, WGU Labs’ Director of Learning Innovations and leader of CIN,

With the fast-paced changes we’re seeing in education today, a concerted and collaborative effort to understand students’ evolving needs and piloting innovation is likely to yield the greatest impact. With a greater understanding of those core needs, CIN will begin sourcing relevant EdTech solutions, while also putting into place the design for rigorous evaluations of those solutions. This collaborative effort will assist in offering affordable and impactful educational opportunities at each partner institution and ensure meaningful insights to guide any institution looking to transform student outcomes.

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), Piedmont Community College (North Carolina), Central Ohio Technical College, and Loyola University New Orleans will join Rio Salado as founding members.

The founding network members convened for the first time in July to converge on key themes and priorities, and will continue collaborating throughout the 2020–2021 academic year to implement solutions, evaluate their effectiveness, and share results with the broader higher education community.

“In working with CIN, we were able to employ a carefully designed discovery process to efficiently and effectively hone in on our institution's most urgent needs, giving us the confidence that we’re focused on the right priorities for the year,” said Eric Heiser, Provost at Central Ohio Technical College. “I also found comfort in learning that other schools are facing many of the same issues as us and that, being aligned through CIN, we can now work together to find meaningful solutions.”

CIN’s founding network members serve diverse students—including historically underrepresented student populations—with inclusive and broad access policies. Through real-world pilot testing, their students will have access to EdTech products and services aimed at addressing some of the biggest challenges to earning degrees.

With coordination from WGU Labs—Western Governors University’s research and development hub—the network’s members will work together to implement EdTech solutions and evaluate the impact they have on student outcomes, and will publicly share the findings and insights to help other institutions quickly adopt and scale EdTech solutions.

Rio Salado College is one of ten Maricopa Community Colleges and one of the largest online public community colleges in the nation, serving nearly 50,000 students annually, with almost 30,000 online in 50 states and internationally. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, Rio Salado offers 600+ online classes, 130+ degree and certificate programs, and general education courses. The college also provides support for dual enrollment, military and incarcerated students and serves as one of the largest providers of adult education in Arizona.

Annette Flores is a Senior Public Relations Analyst at Rio Salado College in Tempe, Arizona.

Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.