Partnership Improves Student Connectivity

LENOIR, NC (March 12, 2021) — Caldwell County high school students will now have better access to online learning and higher education thanks to a recently completed project by Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and Caldwell County Schools, with help from tech giant Google.

Through the CONNECT Project, CCC&TI and Caldwell County Schools jointly coordinated the installation of distance learning classrooms at Hibriten, South Caldwell, and West Caldwell high schools that will allow connections to each other as well as classrooms at CCC&TI.

Hibriten High School students participate in a MAT 171 course, facilitated by AIG Facilitator Amanda McLean and taught by CCC&TI Instructor Jennifer Fisher (shown on screen) via an online connection between the two campuses. Students at West Caldwell and South Caldwell high schools also are able to take college classes on their campuses through the recently completed distance learning classrooms.

The new technology will allow a teacher at one location to deliver instruction to students at any of the three high schools. This includes college courses at CCC&TI, which provides tremendous cost savings for high school students, thanks to tuition-free classes through Career and College Promise. The goal of the project is to improve online learning access, especially STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and to remove barriers that may prevent a student from earning college credits. 

“More than one-third of our enrollment is made up of high school students, and the tuition savings for local students totals about $1 million each year,” CCC&TI President Dr. Mark Poarch said. “This project will allow CCC&TI to provide more courses, and now that we can link to those schools directly, one instructor can reach students in multiple off-site classrooms. We can also deliver instruction from our campus while the students remain on their high school campuses. The opportunities with this technology are endless. We’re thankful for Google’s generosity and emphasis on opening doors for local students through technology.”

Hibriten High School students receive instruction from CCC&TI Math Instructor Jennifer Fisher (shown on screen to the right) through an online connection between a classroom on the CCC&TI campus in Hudson and a classroom on Hibriten’s campus. AIG Facilitator Amanda McLean observes the class in person and is available to help students face-to-face.

Use of the new classrooms began in January with the start of the spring semester. The project received $100,000 in funding from Google’s Data Center Community Grants Program in 2020, with CCC&TI covering the remaining expenses. The project creates flexibility for local educators and many opportunities for Caldwell County students.

“The distance learning classrooms are designed to be versatile to provide as many opportunities for students and teachers as possible,” Caldwell County Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps said. “The rooms will eliminate some barriers that we have to deal with and will allow greater access to courses for students. We will also be able to serve students in various locations with this synchronous format of instructional delivery. It has great potential, and I am excited about how it may be used to benefit our students, teachers and community.”

The CONNECT Project is the latest in ongoing collaborative efforts between local educators and Google to support students of Caldwell County. Recent examples include using Caldwell County Schools buses as rolling hotspots to provide Wi-Fi access throughout the community and the donation of Chromebooks for students lacking the equipment to access online learning.

“Google, CCC&TI, and Caldwell County Schools have been partners in education and economic development for well over a decade,” said Lilyn Hester, Head of External Affairs and Public Affairs – Southeast, Google. “Our latest initiative will help ensure that more budding minds have access to the tools they need to succeed. The entire Google team in Lenoir and around North Carolina is grateful for the teamwork that is a hallmark of Caldwell County.”

For more information about Career and College Promise tuition-free offerings in Caldwell County, students and parents can visit here or here, or meet with the CCC&TI Transition Advisor or the school counselor at any of the county’s three high schools.