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ACM, NSF Release Report on Challenges, Opportunities Facing Community Colleges

NSF-Sponsored Summit Gathers Ideas to Make Community College Computing Courses More Relevant to Students in Today's Economy

Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession


Virginia Gold

Sara Appleyard Adams

Widmeyer Communications


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WASHINGTON – April 25, 2011 – The National Science Foundation (NSF) and ACM (the Association for Community Machinery) today released a report, “Digitally Enhancing America’s Community Colleges,” detailing the findings from a joint Strategic Summit on Computing Education Challenges at Community Colleges to determine why community colleges are not able to apply successfully for federal funding for computing programs, among other challenges and opportunities.  The report’s recommendations are designed to spur new grant proposals, inventive initiatives, and dynamic partnership activities to infuse innovation into community college computing courses and programs.

            “Significant federal funding from NSF through the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program is available to encourage and help implement innovative computing education at the community college level,” stated Scott Grissom, Program Director, National Science Foundation. “However, at this point, we are not seeing the type of competitive proposals with innovative ideas and compelling stories that we had wanted.  We believe this report gives community colleges the insight they need to access the funding that can make necessary changes possible.”

            Report recommendations include:

  • Use cognitive learning research to inform course design and delivery
  • Promote innovation in instructional design and anytime, anywhere delivery through technology-based teaching and learning strategies
  • Partner educators with industry to produce graduates with the necessary technical and soft skills 
  • Create nurturing experiences in technology-related fields for students, especially females and individuals from underrepresented groups

            “The challenge here is to bring forward more innovative ideas and implement them at the community college level—to focus on what the computing field truly needs from its future employees,” said John White, CEO, ACM.  “Going forward, community colleges can help push new teaching strategies that are focused on technology, which will ensure that their students and their communities are engaged, competitive, and successful.”

            The Summit identified a major stumbling block in computing education: “If students don’t know what computing is, why would they pursue it?”  Feedback from participants suggested potential actions the computing and community college communities can take to combat that low level of awareness: 

  • Help students understand what a computing education is, and why it is a promising career path to pursue
  • Actively collaborate among all education sectors as well as business and industry communities to enrich curricula and courses
  • Create well-defined curricula that positions computing as a first-choice career option

            “The unique three-prong mission of community colleges matches the unique needs of computing education; community colleges are easily accessible for future and current computing professionals who need to update their skills to quickly adapt to the needs of today’s workforce,” said Elizabeth Hawthorne, Chair of ACM's Summit Steering Committee, and Senior Professor of Computer Science, Union County College, Cranford, NJ.  “As community colleges across the U.S. identify ways of adapting and evolving, the report calls on these educators to focus on infusing innovation into their computing curricula and, in addition, place an emphasis on helping all their students become tech-savvy, employable citizens.”

            The report coincides with growing national interest in the future of community colleges, including the White House Summit on Community Colleges and its four regional summits held by the U.S. Department of Education, which Secretary Arne Duncan convened “to ensure the vitality of our nation's economy." The ACM-NSF report states that America’s community colleges have never had a higher profile—or shouldered higher expectations. In the face of the extraordinary rate of technological advances and their impact on America’s job force, the report makes the case that community colleges’ development plans need up-to-date computing courses and initiatives if they are to meet those demands.

            To ensure a broad view, ACM’s Committee for Computing Education in Community Colleges convened at the Summit a diverse group of 33 professionals from two-year colleges, four-year colleges, high schools, industry and government to inform the results of the report.

            The complete report is available at:  


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence.  ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.  


About NSF

NSF, The National Science Foundation, is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), it is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing. An essential element in NSF's mission is support for science and engineering education, from pre-K through graduate school and beyond.


About the Committee for Computing Education in Community Colleges

The Committee for Computing Education in Community Colleges is the standing committee of the ACM Education Board concerned with computing education at associate-degree granting colleges and similar post-secondary institutions throughout the world. The Committee advises the Education Board as directed on all issues concerning curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, and engages in advocacy and policy for this sector of higher education.

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