Coker College launches technology initiative

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

After eighteen months of hard work and preparation, AccessCoker was launched at the start of the fall semester at Coker College. An initiative started to help level the playing field for students it also involved training faculty how to incorporate more technology in their classrooms.
Through AccessCoker, each incoming freshman to the Hartsville campus received an iPad and an Apple Pencil.

“Our mission was that AccessCoker would promote life-long learning, help personalize the college experience, create more connections between and among student, faculty and staff on and off campus, and we were going to increase our collaboration,” said Dr. Susan Henderson, Provost and Dean of the Faculty. “We were going to better prepare our students for those 21st Century skills they need.”

Henderson said that faculty and staff are constantly looking for ways to better prepare Coker’s students for their careers after graduation.
“The academic year before last year, there was discussion among the cabinet related to student success, digital initiatives and thinking of ways to transform the teaching and learning experience,” Henderson said. “At that point, members of the cabinet met with Apple folks at various locations. I was in the school of education at that point and our president asked me to go to Coopertino for the education deans’ conference to get an idea of details. Then our president went to Maryville University who had had a very successful iPad launch. Last summer, the administrative cabinet decided that they definitely wanted to put this as a priority and work on it the last school year.”

An eight-person committee was formed with representatives from across campus.

The Steering Committee was: (these were the titles at the time of the work):
• Dr. Susan Henderson, co-Chair (Dean of the Faculty)
• Dr. Cathleen Cuppett, co-Chair (Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning)
• Danielle Sewell – Director of Marketing and Communications
• Kyle Saverance – Chief Information Officer
• Dr. Casey Monette – Assistant Professor of Education
• Matthew Kron – Student
• Tyler “Gus” Mohlhenrich – Director of Athletics Media Relations
• Todd Rix – Director of the Library
• Brianna Douglas – Vice President of Student Success

“We met often to begin the process of figuring out how we would make this happen,” Henderson said. “We were very fortunate that our administration supported us and allowed us to have the piece were Apple supported us as well, brainstorming and coming to campus to help us plan the launch.”

An Apple trainer visited Coker’s campus seven different times for two-day training periods.

This technology launch parallels what is happening in the surrounding county, said Dr. Cathleen Cuppett, currently the Director of Digital Learning and Information Technology.

“If you look at our local community, in the Darlington County Schools they are one-to-one iPad and then in the high schools it’s a MacBook,” Cuppett said. “We have had discussions on campus about how we can best prepare our teacher candidates. They are going into classrooms where they are using this technology so I’m guessing that that also informed our decision about using Apple products.”

Henderson pointed out that while they are using Apple products, the campus supports both operating systems.

“We named it AccessCoker because we wanted to create better access for students on and off campus,” Henderson said. “I think it really came to life for me when I took this to a group of student-leaders, who would not be getting iPads this first year, and the very first comment was that this would help level the playing field. One person said that there were people in her class who only had a phone, some have the latest and greatest MacBook, others have an old phone with a cracked screen and they have to go find the computer lab. Eventually everyone will have the same device to work from wherever they would like to work.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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