Northeast receives Apple Distinguished School designation

Apple School
January 13th, 2020     Other Schools

Northeast Mississippi Community College has received an Apple Distinguished School designation for its innovative approach to providing students with top of the line technology and a mobile learning environment that not only encompasses in classroom instruction but the entire college experience.

College officials presented the award to Northeast employees at a celebration event in the Claude Wright Room on the second floor of the Haney Union on Wednesday, January 8.

“Being identified as an Apple Distinguished School sends a strong message that Northeast Mississippi Community College is serious about educating the student and serious about when students leave Northeast, they are competing not only on a national level but a global level as well,” said Northeast president Dr. Ricky G. Ford. “This means a lot for our students, our faculty and our staff as well.”

Apple Distinguished Schools not only inspire creativity in the classroom but challenge instructors and students in the areas of collaboration and critical thinking using innovative technology with documented results of academic accomplishments.

“It exemplifies all the hard work that the administration, faculty and staff has done to provide enhanced learning in the classroom,” said Northeast history instructor Will Bowlin. “It provides higher levels of learning and engagement amongst the students with today’s modern technology to meet demands of today’s workforce.”

Northeast is no stranger to awards on the local, state, national or international level when it comes to innovation in education with faculty and staff members presenting at conferences around the nation on what the two-year community college is doing in Booneville, Mississippi.

One of the keys to the college’s success is its ability to remove the barriers that once stood in the way of students achieving their educational aspirations.

Northeast joins an elite list of educational institutions with the Apple Distinguished Schools title. Just 470 schools in 35 countries around the world have been named Apple Distinguished Schools and only a handful of those are higher educational institutions.

“With us being just one of eight higher education institutions in the entire world, that is a big honor for Northeast,” said Northeast instructional technology specialist Jeffrey Powell. “We are very proud to have that. We hope to see more increases in student success and more innovation in the classroom where students are developing their own projects and classwork.”

Under the guidance of the “oNE Northeast” initiative, the college challenged itself to meet four criteria that served as barriers of entry for students. Those criteria were: 1) lower textbook costs, 2) engage students, 3) improve communication and 4) prepare students for the workforce with the latest technology.

In the process of meeting those criteria, many of the college’s faculty have foregone the traditional textbook and worked to create their own textbooks with Open Educational Resources (OER) and in doing so, Northeast Mississippi Community College has saved students almost $6 million in textbook costs.

“Besides the decrease in textbook costs, we have also seen an increase in student success —  that’s the number of As, Bs and Cs in class — over the last four years,” said Northeast vice president of instruction Dr. Michelle Baragona. “Students are now starting to matriculate to four-year universities and coming back to tell us, ‘We didn’t know how good we had it at Northeast.’ Now, they are in a situation where they have textbook costs that are over $1,000 a semester.”

Nonetheless, while many colleges and universities concentrate on just changing the way faculty view technology in the classroom, Northeast took on a more comprehensive approach and changed the culture of the college to incorporate technology throughout the entire scope of the college experience.

Some of the ways that Northeast has changed the culture of learning at the higher education level includes a flipped classroom pedagogy, digitized workflows and freeing employees from desktop computers in office spaces.

“You can actually get an associate’s degree in General Studies and not pay anything for textbooks,” Ford said. “We have gone from an instructor-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom. They are able to work hands-on in groups or individually. We had one College Algebra class that went to a 100-percent success rate. That is saying a lot. That is a difficult class.”

Northeast redesigned its freshmen orientation to better suit student needs and give them a more interactive advising experience through the introduction of the Student Success Center in Wright Hall; the college has improved communication with students on a day-to-day basis.

While changing the culture of education, Northeast has infused technology throughout all areas of campus life as well such as housing, records, classrooms and athletics.

“We are going to continue to improve in the classroom and focus on student engagement and the student activities that occur in class, so they are not just passively sitting in class but are actively engaging in the class,” Baragona said.

In applying for the Apple Distinguished Schools designation, Northeast was asked to not only fill out an invitation-only application but to develop its own multi-touch book to highlight everything the college has done to engage the students.

“The book not only shows the learning that is in the classroom but it talks about our athletics and how they are using the iPad,” Baragona said. “Athletics is going to be one of the next big areas that we focus on concerning Apple and is what we are doing in athletics with the iPad and technology.”

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