Assessing Information Technology Educational Pathways that Promote Deployment and Use of Rural Broadband

Summary/Overview, Goals, and Timeline

The project was prompted by the growth of broadband use in all industries that has resulted in a significant workforce need for IT/broadband workers. The project’s research will focus on the educational and career pathways of individuals working as information technology (IT) technicians who support broadband deployment in nonmetropolitan communities in Northwest Florida. The project team will identify the workplace roles of broadband technicians; the education needed to develop skills to be successful in these roles; and the processes to sustain partnerships between educational and industry stakeholders.

This study will examine the IT/broadband technician staffing needs of employers and employees and compare these to the career and technical education skill sets that comprise the curricula of two-year and four-year IT programs at two community colleges in Northwest Florida. Project activities include 1) a gap analysis that will support curriculum development; 2) extension and expansion of the network of nonmetropolitan stakeholders including employers, industries, community institutions, and technician educators; 3) an iterative curriculum/labor needs assessment; 4) a comparative analysis of career pathways; 5) faculty/industry workshops to solicit faculty/industry review of both preliminary and final research findings; 6) recommendations to better integrate curricula with industry needs for faculty and industry; and, 7) a one-day seminar held at FSU to disseminate findings, inform a broad range of local educators and industry, and engage all stakeholders in ongoing discussion.

The results of this project will further define a field that requires flexible workers who can manage a constant stream of new knowledge and support work functions that are increasingly broadband dependent. Project activities will align the efforts of educators directly to the needs of employers and industry as they integrate continued broadband deployment initiatives. This study will support the efforts of career technical education to facilitate economic development and connect the nonmetropolitan communities to global society.


Project Team

Principal Investigator, Dr. Charles R. McClure, The FSU Information Institute:
Dr. Charles R. McClure, director of the Information Institute at Florida State University, has significant experience and knowledge in the areas of telecommunications policy and deployment, broadband deployment and assessment, and technology needs assessments.  Dr. McClure is the Francis Eppes Professor of Information Studies at the College of Communication & Information, School of Library & Information Studies, and Florida State University.  

Co-Principal Investigator: James Froh, Chipola College:
Dr. James Froh oversees the department of Business & Technology at Chipola College, including finance, faulty, grants, accreditation and marketing of all the BSBA, AA, AS, and Certification programs, aligning program objectives with university requirements.  Dr. Froh has participated on grants that include STEM initiatives with the University of West Florida.  Dr. Froh’s involvement will include the recruitment of employees (recent graduates) and educators for participation in focus groups and  interviews as well as providing guidance for data analysis of curricula findings. 
Co-Principal Investigator: Kate Stewart, Tallahassee Community College:  
Dean Kate Stewart directs the Technology & Professional Programs division at TCC. She is currently a member of a lead team for the NSF grant iNoVATE, and is involved with many industry partners in the North Florida region.  Her involvement will include organization of the industry stakeholder relationships and conducting employer interviews. She will also participate in employee focus groups and the dissemination seminar to be held at FSU. 
Co-Principal Investigator, Marcia A. Mardis, FSU-PALM Center:
Dr. Marcia A. Mardis, Assistant Professor is also the Associate Director for the Partnerships Advancing Library Media (PALM) Center. Her research focuses on learning resources, high speed networking, and digital libraries. Prior to joining the faculty at FSU, Dr. Mardis was an advanced networking researcher at Merit Network, Inc. and participated in content development for SupportNet Online, an online professional development program for network technicians. In 2008, she was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the College of Education at the University of Alberta at Edmonton researching the role of broadband in provincial school technology integration. Dr. Mardis has been PI or Co-PI on seven NSF and IMLS grants totaling over $5 million. Her role on this project is to advise on the educational curricula methods and analysis and internally evaluate program outcomes. 
Co-Principal Investigator, Ebe Randeree, FSU-CCI & SLIS:  
As Associate Director of School of Library and Information Studies and Assistant Dean of FSU College of Communication & Information, Assistant Dean Randeree will coordinate the recruitment of students, faculty and industry leaders.  He will coordinate recent graduate contact, provide industry contacts, advise on the findings of the curricula analysis and also assist in facilitation of the dissemination seminar at FSU. 



Evaluator, Dr. Flora McMartin, Broad-based Knowledge, LLC:  
Dr. Flora McMartin has extensive experience as a program evaluator and will be able to determine benchmarks and indicators of success while evaluating this project.  She has also worked with community college partners which have explored similar research questions. Experience relevant to this project includes: conducting a national research study of curriculum and teaching practices associated with research methods; evaluation of KEN – the math Knowledge Exchange Network, a California community college-supported project (funded by Hewlett and NSF); and, ELIXR, a CSU sponsored project to develop and support online multimedia faculty development services (funded by FIPSE).  For the current project, her primary duties will be to review the research protocols, data collection instruments and processes to make recommendations for necessary changes or improvements.  She will also provide regular feedback to the PIs and project team with program status in producing the expected outcomes.  Consultations will be conducted primarily through regular conference calls but will also include site visits over the course of the project. Dr. McMartin will submit a final report at the completion of the project.  


Advisory Committee

The nature of technology and education fields requires input from the leaders of each. The Advisory committee reflects the interests of those with technical, educational, and industry leadership and expertise. 

 Organization Individual 
Integrated STEM Instructional Systems, LLC  Duane Hume, M.Ed, Senior Partner 
Syracuse University School of Information Studies  Dave Molta, Associate Professor Director, CCENT Wireless Testbed 
ICT Center at Springfield Tech Community College Gordon Snyder, Executive Director
Opportunity Florida Jim Brook, Executive Director
ATE Central, Tools & Technology Edward Almasy, Co-Director, Internet Scout Project 
TalTech Alliance, TallahasseeGo Beyond  Jason Stamm, Chair,TalTech Education Committee 
University of Texas, Austin  College of Communication  Sharon Strover, , Professor, Director Telecom and Information Policy Institute  
Merit Network, Inc. Elwood Downing, Vice President, Member Relations, Communications, Services and Product Development 
State of Florida Department of Management Services  Melanie Simmons, Team Leader, Broadband Grants Assistance Team 



Critical to the success of this study is the collaboration between TCC, Chipola, and the SLIS undergraduate programs. The Information Institute will assist recruitment of CAIs, private sector businesses and regional industry representatives that recruit candidates for technology-specific positions in nonmetro Florida.  The role of the community colleges will be to recruit new professionals employed in the nonmetro regions and IT/broadband faculty; conduct focus groups with employees and interviews with faculty and employers; and, assist in providing a range of data related to IT/broadband students and curricula.  The private and public sector organizations will assist in the project by participating in recruitment events and interviews to gather data on the skills and knowledge they feel new professionals need to operate successfully as nonmetro IT/broadband technicians. 
Chipola College: The technology programs at Chipola include specialist certifications in Computer Information Technology; Network Services Technology; Information Technology Management; and, CISCO Network Certification.  All programs can be combined with general education courses for the completion of an associate degree.  Chipola offers innovative, applied-oriented learning through both traditional and online class work. Chipola has worked closely with business and industry leaders, providing student internship opportunities and seminars to help local business with current challenges.  

Tallahassee Community College: The Technology and Professional programs provide three associate degrees in networking, programming and Web technologies as part of their larger mission to create lifelong learners and a career oriented workforce.  Each degree focuses on a combination of broad management skills together with specialist skills such as Programming and Analysis; Network Development and Administration; and, Web Development, Design and Management.  TCC has an established CTE Pathway program that articulates with high schools and technical schools in three counties.  

Florida State University, School of Library & Information Studies: The IT program at SLIS prepares students for a productive career in the information industry, focusing on one of the following areas: Security and Networking; Database Design and Management; Web Site Design and Web Application Development and Management; and, Health Informatics. IT leadership, IT Practicum, and the Internship classes provide opportunities for students to interact with the Tallahassee community. The program has added courses in Data Center Management, Mobile App development, and Enterprise Computing.  A new major, ICT – Information Communication & Technology, created in 2010, combines courses in IT and Communications. 

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