Revamping an old campus with new technology

Revamping an old campus with new technology

By Jay Field on Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Founded in 1935, parts of City College of San Francisco’s Ocean campus retains the charm of its origins. However, our students may not appreciate the ambience if they can’t give a media-rich presentation or post a quick Instagram between classes. So we set out to revamp our classrooms with modern technology.

It’s no small task. As the largest, single-college community college district in California, the City College of San Francisco serves more than 67,000 students in more than 11 locations throughout the city and county of San Francisco. Being in a hot bed of technological innovation puts the best kind of pressure on us to provide great technology for our students, faculty, and staff. We want to make sure our students are prepared to work in the many booming technology fields so prevalent in the bay area. Our students see it all in the world around them: The internet of things, wearables, artificial intelligence, virtual reality. Just imagine the incredible, rich, and engaging experiences we can provide our students with the right technologies to support teaching and teaching.

Today, we are focused on transforming all our classrooms into “smart classrooms.” It is always a challenge to provide modern technology solutions in older facilities. Before we started this initiative, less than 10 percent of our classrooms featured up-to-date technology. This past year we completed 70 remodels and we have another 70 slated for next year. They are all standardized so that any faculty member can walk into any classroom and know how to use it. What’s in a smart classroom? A few of our basics include:

  • Ceiling-mounted data projector/screen
  • Interactive white boards (by department request)
  • ADA-friendly instructor station outfitted with push button control panel for all media
  • Desktop computer as well as the ability for faculty to bring their own devices (BYOD)
  • Document camera
  • Audio speakers

But we’re taking it one step further. Even if the technology is user-friendly, it is only valuable if it gets used. So we also provide training as part of our professional development curriculum to make sure that everyone who uses a smart classroom feels comfortable and confident. The technology is connected to our network. You can query how many hours are left on a projector’s light bulb and know when it will need replacing. We’re also working on remote support to assist faculty. They will be able to call in and a technician will look at the media setup, diagnose, and help them remotely, if possible. Support for instruction in the classroom is a number one priority.

Faculty and students bring their own devices and can access their curriculum from the on-campus network or remotely. We offer wireless access at all our locations. We’ve found that many students wait to do their homework or other internet data-intensive tasks until they get here so the college has deployed more than 375 access points throughout the district and adds more regularly.

And we’re just getting started.

We’re working on deploying a mobile app to make our registration and enrollment processes easier to use. The City College of San Francisco is participating in a state-wide initiative to provide integrated planning and advising services tailored for each student. Many of our first-year students are also the first generation in their families to attend college and this will help them better navigate our systems.

We are also looking to use our data, much of it found in the learning management system, as a critical element of the college’s early alert program. This will help us create a much more holistic picture of each student. With the right information, we can help them early enough to keep them in school and perhaps even help them shorten the time to complete their educational goals.

For the City College of San Francisco, technology not only helps to create a culture of innovation, it also directly contributes to helping our students succeed.

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About the Author

Jay Field

Jay Field

Chief Technology Officer, City College of San Francisco

Jay Field has more than 30 years of experience working with higher education technology.