A Canvas Case Study: Higher Education
Coastal Alabama Community College: Bridging the Gap Between Classrooms & Careers With Canvas
Bay Minette, AL
With a mission of providing broad access to a high-quality yet affordable education, Coastal Alabama Community College provides flexible adult education and workforce training courses that prepare students to enter the rapidly expanding job market. Keep reading to see how Canvas LMS and Canvas Catalog are used across all eight Coastal Alabama campuses to facilitate partnerships with local organizations and empower students to apply their learning beyond the classroom.
In 2017, three local institutions were consolidated to become what is known today as Coastal Alabama Community College. Although this change presented an opportunity to expand accessible course offerings and educational opportunities to the state of Alabama, it also presented key challenges: Each institution had already established its own communication methods, learning management system best practices, and used different platforms to facilitate teaching and learning. With two of the acquired institutions using Canvas and one using a separate LMS, a decision had to be made to unite the formerly individual colleges as one institution and establish consistency.
Although these three schools had distinct differences in their approach to the administrative aspects of teaching and learning, they shared the same goals:
- Strengthen communication within each campus network between educators and students.
- Expand workforce training to support both student and community growth.
Combined, these objectives led the institution to choose Canvas LMS as its comprehensive learning management system in 2017.
The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly created many challenges for higher education institutions, forcing many to adopt a fully online learning model with sustained campus closures. In response to this shift, Coastal Alabama transferred all of its adult education and workforce training courses online in just six weeks using Canvas LMS and Canvas Catalog, allowing students to register, enroll, and participate in courses from the comfort of their own homes.
To further this initiative, they also took this opportunity to connect with local organizations and community partners to provide educational opportunities for individuals who were temporarily out of work during the pandemic.
Catalog has enabled Coastal Alabama to compete with other online skill-building programs by allowing them to customize course content for specific organizations and bridge the gap between student achievement and career readiness—which, according to our recent global benchmark study, is the number one priority for students today. This approach has contributed to a larger initiative; expanding the concept of student success to be less about graduation rates and high GPAs, and more about the application of learning in a real-world setting.
“Canvas Catalog allows us to offer over 100 modularized, skills-based courses that provide students with the opportunity to upskill and gain access to in-demand industries in our service area.”
-Dr. Josh Duplantis, Dean of Workforce Development
Creating a standalone Canvas instance within Catalog has also allowed Coastal Alabama to reach adult learners outside of its traditional student base. Workforce training participants are able to access a simple interface to engage with specific training content without having to navigate Canvas tools geared toward full-time students.
The creation of online content for these courses is often recorded with Canvas Studio, enabling educators to easily track and measure engagement while providing students with the opportunity to learn at their own pace.
"The CNA program being offered in a hybrid (online and seated) format through Coastal Alabama’s Canvas Catalog allowed me to go back and review lectures so that I was better prepared for exams and skills."
-Destiny Johnson, recently employed graduate of the Certified Nursing Assistant program
Additionally, Coastal Alabama has used Canvas courses and groups to strengthen communication at the institution and campus level for both faculty and students. To keep faculty informed, a Canvas group dubbed “Coastal News” was created, allowing educators to opt in and receive real-time updates for any and all of the eight Coastal Alabama campuses and access shared departmental resources. To keep students informed, they created a second group titled, “Coastal Student News,” which exists to house all collegewide updates and COVID-19 resources in one centralized location.
To Coastal Alabama, Canvas is not only a learning management system, it’s also an institution intranet used to improve communication at every level.
“We’re too big to not communicate well, and Canvas makes it possible for us to be intentional and effective in our communication across all eight of our campuses.”
-Sara Davis, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications
The abrupt transition to online learning created new opportunities for community engagement, leading to an 18% increase in the adult education program at Coastal Alabama in the first six weeks of the pandemic. Their ability to adapt quickly not only helped the institution in expanding its core initiative, but also helped many members of the Alabama community develop their skills and connect with new job opportunities when the pandemic brought many industries to a halt.
Additionally, the time Coastal Alabama has saved by streamlining workforce training registration and enrollment has allowed educators to create additional course offerings and take the next step: integrating Catalog with their payment gateway to provide more access to their content on a broader community scale.
“Catalog increased community access to our educational content exponentially, and Canvas gave us the tools to make our workforce training program what it is today.”
-Sara Davis, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications
Moving forward, Coastal Alabama plans to continue using Canvas to strengthen communication and empower students to be strong ambassadors for the college. Faculty members intend to use “Coastal News” as a vehicle for increasing awareness for the college so it can continue to grow.
The team also plans to partner with more content creators and local organizations to continue providing clear roadmaps for students to follow into the workforce—from the classroom, to an apprenticeship, to a career.
About Coastal Alabama Community College
As the largest community college in Alabama by geographic coverage area, with eight campuses in six different counties, Coastal Alabama Community College provides university parallel programs that transfer to senior colleges and universities as well as workforce development and technical skills training to increase access to employment, strengthen career advancement, and support local economic needs.
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