ConexED recently partnered with Inside Higher Education to conduct a webinar outlining the necessity of scalable student support systems on contemporary college campuses. ConexED CEO, Tracy Gorham, was joined by Christopher Sweeten, Vice President of Student Services for Moreno Valley College, a longtime ConexED user.
Together, Tracy and Christopher reviewed the advantages of unifying student support services online, on-premise, and through blended learning models to increase student access to vital support systems, professional development of staff and faculty, and also increase student retention.
The ConexED platform was developed after Tracy Gorham witnessed the need for improved student support throughout her own education at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pursuing a project-based degree program while working full-time, she and many of her classmates had difficulty connecting with professors outside of limited office hours. Bridging her background in telecommunications, engineering, and UI/UX web design, Tracy created the embeddable ConexED card that connects students with the complete student support directory of individuals and resources vital to student success.
Nearly a decade later, Tracy’s excitement for improving connectivity between students and their support systems continues to benefit campuses across the nation, including Christopher Sweeten’s in Moreno Valley, California.
Christopher developed a passion for accessibility to student support and equal opportunity early on.
“For me as a first generation student and the youngest of four, going into higher education I understand what it feels like to be lost in an environment without any direction… I was truly dependent on the professionals on campus to support me.”
Now, as the acting Vice President of Student Support at Moreno Valley College, Christopher and the members of his team assist students on their path to graduation the same way that his teachers, advisors, and counselors were able to assist him as a first generation student in his family. The primary difference? ConexED.
Using ConexED, staff and faculty at Moreno Valley College are able to meet students at their level using real-time communication and real human connection.
“[Using the ConexED student directory] students have the ability to initiate conversations and dialogue. Chatbots are wonderful for after-hours, but ConexED allows meaningful connection with students. You can even get offline messages, so you can communicate no matter what [time of day].”
Empowering students with the tools to communicate on their own terms has also provided comfort and discretion that is not often available in-person. By providing accessibility online, underprivileged students can have private FERPA and HIPAA compliant conversations with professionals around mental wellness, housing insecurity, and other basic needs. This accelerates student support and eliminates the burden of traveling to campus.
“The [ConexED] platform builds trust. For students, it’s knowing that they can talk to someone when they need to. Even before the pandemic, [ConexED] was a true resource to the campus providing access to individuals who are eager to assist.”
Because many of Christopher’s students are also taking courses from Norco College and Riverside City College, ConexED has been vital to ensuring cohesive student support across all three campuses. By using ConexED to connect multiple colleges and campuses, Moreno Valley can address the needs of all students while building engagement centers for special programs such as UMOJA and PUENTE, two organizations aimed at improving opportunities for underrepresented African American and Hispanic students.
As beneficial as ConexED is for the student experience, the platform is equally advantageous for educators, advisors, and administrators.
At Moreno Valley College, Christopher and his colleagues utilize ConexED’s reporting abilities to better understand the dynamics between staff and students.
“This platform gives data at your fingertips, [with both] qualitative and quantitative analyses to support your teams. Recording meetings and class sessions allows you to conduct case studies and revisit improvements that can be made. You can even recap the chat history, revisiting the tone we use in written communication.”
In addition to the continual development of staff members, ConexED reports have also been crucial in documenting the allocation of Moreno Valley College’s CARES and HEER federal funding.
“In higher education, we have federal grants, state grants, local grants, and categorical programs that all have different reporting and different questions that we need to ask of our students. We also have institutional information we need to measure to ensure we are meeting institutional goals moving forward. With ConexED, institutions can do a deeper dive within reporting for various departments and programs.”
The biggest indicator of student success is retention. Using ConexED’s milestone dashboard, Christopher and members of the Student Support Team at Moreno Valley College can monitor and track the steps toward graduation.
“With retention, it’s about meeting students where they’re at. For those who are caregivers or working one or two jobs, making it to campus is not easy. They don’t have the time. (ConexED) changes the culture and tells students that educators are willing to go to them, in a timely manner.”
By empowering empathetic leaders in education like Christopher, ConexED looks forward to additional opportunities to increase student access, professional development and retention across campuses nationwide.
“With ConexED, you are able to have a strong partnership with a business that understands that education is a right and that every student deserves to start and finish on time with their desired degree.”