Via WGU of North Carolina – By Glenn Gillen

As many community colleges are struggling with lower enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic, Piedmont Community College (PCC) is seeking innovative ways to keep students engaged and on track to graduate. The College Innovation Network (CIN), a program founded by WGU Labs, has analyzed preliminary results of a pilot partnership with Piedmont Community College to study how well Harmonize —an online communications platform from Boulder, Colorado-based 42 Lines —impacts student engagement.

Participating faculty reported a highly positive experience with Harmonize during the spring 2021 semester, agreeing that it has increased student engagement and improved the quality of student participation. Student respondents reported a positive experience with Harmonize, a majority agreeing that it was easy to use and helped them express their ideas in class discussions.

“Faculty have found that Harmonize can help stimulate more engaging discussions, in part because Harmonize supports use of images, video, and other rich media,” said Don Miller, Dean of the Learning Commons at PCC. 

Faculty participant Katie Hester, a biology instructor at PCC, noted that “students engaged more because there were more options for them to express themselves. They could post their words, but also use pictures, voice recordings, or video recordings. And students were able to react, tag each other, and start true conversations with their classmates,” she said.

Nicole Barbaro, research scientist and CIN research lead, noted that faculty responses to Harmonize were positive. “Faculty reported that they would recommend Harmonize to a colleague, that they think Harmonize has added value to their course, and that they feel confident in their ability to effectively use Harmonize,” she said. “The initial feedback from faculty and students during this pilot have been very helpful for us as we prepare for a larger evaluation study in the 2021 fall semester,” she said.

“We’re excited to be working with WGU Labs and CIN to gain a deeper understanding of how Harmonize builds connections, drives engagement, and deepens student learning,” said Marcus Popetz, CEO of 42 Lines. “While this initial study was small, we’re looking forward to examining the data that is collected from a more comprehensive study this fall. We hope to confirm some of our own data which show that Harmonize can improve student outcomes by helping them stay connected to each other and engaged in their learning.”

About Piedmont Community College

Celebrating 50 years in 2020, Piedmont Community College is a welcoming environment for all students. In fact, alumni and current students alike value the individual attention received by faculty and staff, often sharing that PCC’s atmosphere offers the opportunity for growth in and out of the classroom. Considered the Hometown College of residents in Person and Caswell counties, PCC’s Team encourages students to participate in student and community events and organizations to broaden their collegiate experience, as well as to strengthen their leadership skills. For more information, visit www.piedmontcc.edu.

About the College Innovation Network

The College Innovation Network, part of WGU Labs, is a project that supports a network of higher education institutions to more effectively identify, implement, and evaluate EdTech solutions. By leveraging the full set of research and design services from WGU Labs, CIN supports educational institutions throughout the full lifecycle of EdTech implementation and evaluation with the ultimate goal of improving the student experience. Our vision is to support the evolution of higher education towards a future in which EdTech is an effective vehicle for social mobility. To learn more about CIN, visit www.wgulabs.org/cin.  

About 42 Lines

42 Lines has more than a decade of experience developing innovative education technology solutions for higher education institutions and organizations looking to surpass industry standards. Created in response to educator and student feedback, the Harmonize platform seamlessly integrates with learning management systems to create an engaging, collaborative community for dynamic academic discussion, creative and analytical thinking, and in-depth feedback that drives improved learning outcomes. To learn more about 42 Lines, visit 42lines.net. To learn more about Harmonize, visit harmonize.42lines.net.

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