Q&A: Northampton Community College
This Lehigh Valley Community College Has Made Equity, Diversity and Inclusion a Major Priority
Northampton Community College is well known for their innovative programs, outstanding faculty and student achievements. With one of the largest scholarship programs in Pennsylvania, Northampton Community College serves as one of the most affordable premier educational institutions in the Pennsylvania region.
CourseArc had the opportunity to chat with Lauryn Woodman, Manager of Instructional Design at Northampton Community College, to discuss the college’s commitment to equity and diversity and how it continues to achieve state and national accolades.
Tell us about Northampton Community College.
Lauryn Woodman, Manager of Instructional Design at Northampton Community College
Since its establishment in 1967, Northampton Community College (NCC) in Pennsylvania is where Lehigh Valley residents turn to earn a degree, access workforce training, learn new leisure activities, and bring their children for enrichment.
Today, NCC serves more than 25,000 students a year in credit and non-credit programs, and is strategically positioned to provide students with the education that they need in order to enter the workforce or to continue their studies. NCC grants degrees, certificates and diplomas in more than 100 fields, is one of the largest employers in the Lehigh Valley, and is the only community college in Pennsylvania to offer on-campus housing. With three campuses, NCC also enjoys a student body that is diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, income, and academic interest.
Northampton Community College prides itself on providing excellent, accessible and comprehensive learning experiences in partnership with the dynamic, diverse communities it serves. How does Northampton prioritize equitable and accessible education for your diverse learners?
NCC is a college fiercely committed to addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. NCC’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion extends across all areas of the college community and is not bounded by any single school, location, or group. It must permeate every corner of the college.
The college prioritizes its commitment to diversity in many ways; examples are making Chief Diversity Officer a Vice President level position reporting to the President, the creation and implementation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Action Plan, Title IX Reporting system, Disability Services, NCC Diversity Committee, Veterans Affairs, Supporting our Caucuses (Hispanic Caucus, Pan African Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, In/Visible Dis/Abilities Caucus, Women Caucus), Chosen / Preferred Name Policy and Equity Certificate. We are currently working on a bias-related incident report system. The Bias Education and Response Team (BERT) consists of a cross-disciplinary group of staff and faculty who will ensure that students, faculty, and staff have the means to report bias incidents, share information about incidents reported to the BERT and advocate for prevention and awareness programs.
Equity and inclusion have become buzzwords, but Northampton has been practicing these values for years. Tell us about how Northampton works toward providing an equitable education for all. What advice would you give other organizations who have similar goals?
The creation of a strategic plan is an important focal point for moving ahead. It provides a road map for how we will structure our work in DEI and how we will measure our progress during the next several years and beyond. Our goals have been developed under the careful direction of the College’s Diversity Committee and President’s Cabinet and reflect numerous discussions, conversations, and modifications to ensure they address key areas essential to evolving our work around DEI into best practice.
What makes Northampton different than other area community colleges?
Women dressed in traditional Indian Saris at Northampton Community College pose for a picture in front of a Kolam art image of NCC’s logo.
With an enduring commitment to the regional community it serves and a focus on student success, Northampton Community College has developed a reputation as an institution of extraordinary distinction, earning accolades at the state and national levels for innovative programs, outstanding faculty and impressive student achievements. It counts among its successful alumni a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner and an Academy Award winning director as well as a host of CEOs, presidents, and leaders of business and industry. NCC has one of the largest scholarship programs in Pennsylvania. Today, Northampton Community College has locations in Bethlehem, Southside Bethlehem, and Monroe County, serving students each year from 53 counties, 42 countries and 25 states. NCC Bethlehem campus offers housing and residence life. The college is home to the most diverse student body in the region with a strong focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
How have your offerings/class structures/programs changed since many schools had to shift learning to fully online due to the pandemic? What positive changes did you see as a result of this shift that you plan to keep?
NCC had to shift to fully remote, much like many others in the area, when the pandemic hit. Luckily, NCC was well-versed in delivering classes in an online format, with over 20 years of experience. However, the College allowed for more flexible course offerings to students.
NCC offers course formats to fit a student’s life, allowing them to select the best options for their busy schedules. Formats range from in-person, online, hybrid and more. Some online courses meet at a scheduled time, while others are self-paced with weekly milestones. These formats have given students more control of their learning, while placing an emphasis on health and safety practices to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Northampton’s College Success online course – designed through CourseArc – discusses diversity, inclusion, privilege and equity.
Tell us about your partnership with CourseArc. How has CourseArc played a role in your ability to support students and educators?
When we launched CourseArc at NCC, our first focus area was on Faculty Training. We knew that if we could get faculty on board and excited about CourseArc that they would see it as a valuable tool that they could adopt in their own teaching. We redesigned our Online Learning 101: Online Teaching Training course using CourseArc. This training course is required for faculty who wish to teach online at NCC. Faculty who participated in the training responded positively to CourseArc and several of them chose to adopt CourseArc for their own courses. This eventually expanded into use in several programs at the College, including Dental Hygiene, College Success, and Early Childhood Education.
On the student side, we created an engaging onboarding tool to help students learn how to use Blackboard, student email, video conferencing tools, and other things necessary to be a successful student. We are able to share the link to the session and update the session as needed without needing to send out a new link. Using CourseArc, we are able to give students different ways to learn, including embedding videos, linking to supplemental information, clicking around on images for more information, and using virtual flashcards. Students can access this information on a computer or mobile device and they can refer back to it as needed. One of our favorite things about CourseArc is the built in accessibility features. Universal design and accessibility are very important to us, so we appreciate a tool that is intentional about providing accessible content to learners.
How do you hope to continue to engage your learners online?
NCC has been offering high quality online education for 20+ years. As we move forward through the changing landscape of Higher Education, we plan to continue offering flexible course formats, providing equitable learning opportunities, and creating more accessible course content to support student needs.
What advice would you give to other organizations seeking to develop online content?
Work with organization stakeholders and online learning experts to identify student needs and to determine what high quality, engaging online learning would look like at your organization. Identify innovative course developers and those who are passionate about supporting learners who can support online content development. Don’t be afraid to try new tools, like CourseArc, that can provide accessible, engaging learning experiences. And lastly, keep learning and exploring new tools, pedagogy, and trends in online education that can take your program to the next level.