Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence | Customer | D2L
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Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence

Preparing students for high-demand industries


Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence uses D2L Brightspace to upskill IT professionals

At a glance

Client: Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence
Learners: 340,000+
Industry: Higher Education
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Platform/Features

  • D2L Brightspace
  • Course Export
  • HTML Templates
  • Awards tool

Highlights

  • 168 modules preparing students for high-demand industries available across 37 campuses
  • 200% increase in faculty participation in the Collaborative Curriculum Program across the system from 2017 to 2021
  • Doubled the faculty from unique campuses in the past two years
  • Increased willingness from industry leaders to engage in additional projects with the Center of Excellence
Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence Logo

Institution

The Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence (ITCOE), hosted by Metropolitan State University, works closely with industry and educators to attract students and prepare them for work in high-demand industries in Minnesota. Through its Curriculum Project, the Center of Excellence sought to develop or enhance programs in high-demand IT disciplines, including cybersecurity, data science, agile, DevOps, and career readiness, all to meet increased market needs. Brightspace was essential in delivering on-demand IT modules that align with industry standards and incorporate innovative learning technologies and best practices to all 37 campuses within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, including sharing resources with workforce centers, economic development agencies, and other agencies serving the state’s dislocated and underserved populations.

"With the increase in faculty engagement and ability for students to receive training in key focus areas of cybersecurity and data science, the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence has seen an increase in student participation in events. The engagement of the faculty, the campus leadership, and the industry have all helped Minnesota State System campuses engage students as well."

Opportunity

A Rising Demand for Qualified IT Professionals

A Center of Excellence (COE) is a dedicated team that works closely with the industry and educators to attract students to, and prepare students for, high-demand industries in Minnesota that are currently facing workforce shortages and will continue to in the future. The Minnesota State IT COE offers valuable resources to Minnesota college and university IT faculty members.

The primary driver for the ITCOE was the extraordinary demand for qualified IT professionals throughout Minnesota. Open positions in Minnesota are high in cybersecurity, DevOps, and data science and analytics. Most open positions have a role description that includes career readiness and agile method experiences or competencies. Additionally, the sophistication of virtual learning environments and the speed of change in the industry are driving greater use of online virtual learning, practice, assessment tools, and a robust ecosystem of certification programs to maintain compliance with the field’s rapid evolution.

Still, the cost and integration challenges are often too high for individual faculty or a single institution to take on. Accordingly, the job market’s strength causes employers to hire professionals without the traditional credentials, leading to a shift in the profile of potential students. Employed students need maximum academic flexibility, including online or hybrid programs, certification programs, and credit for prior learning. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System had the critical people, resources, and infrastructure to address this changing market.

man looking at code

Solution

Increasing Access to Industry-Standard Training

The Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence’s mission is to help Minnesota State faculty lead in technology education. It serves as a facilitator to coordinate, develop, and create collaborative curriculum development projects, bringing together industry experts and faculty from across the Minnesota State System to meet all institutions’ needs within the Minnesota State System. The result is a rapidly increasing repository of curriculum resources that align with standards and incorporate innovative learning technologies and best practices.

The goal was to create 150 one-credit modules that could be easily accessed and used by any faculty or college across the System. Each module is aligned to at least one industry standard as well as to IT career pathways and focuses on a skill, providing learners with resources to improve knowledge of the skills, exercises to help practice each skill, and a quiz or project to assess their learning.

Within the System there are 37 individual colleges or campuses. Each site uses its own D2L Brightspace instance, but they do not share courses, modules, or resources across the System. Minnesota State expanded the scope and access to curriculum of cyber, data, agile, and career readiness programs to faculty and students across the Minnesota State System using D2L Brightspace. These modules were created by Minnesota State faculty and are completely virtual, free, and ready to use in classrooms across the state.

woman with cellphone
The ITCOE is hosted on Metropolitan State University’s D2L Brightspace instance. Working with the Minnesota State System and Brightspace team, the ITCOE secured access to the System’s Brightspace instance, where the ITCOE shares its final IT modules and permits faculty across the System to log in with their own ID (just as if on their own campus) and immediately use any module at their college or university. Using the Class Progress tool in Brightspace, the ITCOE can see who has downloaded a module.

By using the HTML templates available in Brightspace, the ITCOE can create consistent, responsive, accessible, and interactive content topic pages. The ITCOE has also incorporated the common course cartridge packaging, allowing them to share the ITCOE’s modules with external educational and training organizations. Modules also incorporate the Discussion, Announcements, Activities, and Assessments tools in Brightspace. Currently the team is also working with the Awards tool, which enables instructors to grant digital badges or certificates in modules.

students working on a computer

Result

Increased Faculty and Student Engagement

The main goal of the ITCOE was to have a shared curriculum that could be used at any of the 37 campuses. Each of the 168 current modules can be used as a stand-alone module, allowing students and faculty a chance to experience learning in the different areas, or in bundles that allow faculty and colleges to create new courses or programs that meet the demands of the local industries.

The impact of the solutions has been immediate. An increase in faculty participation in the Collaborative Curriculum Program, for example, grew from 68 total faculty engaged across the System in 2017 to 165 in 2018, and nearly 200 in 2021. Modules are now being created, reviewed, or used at over 20 campuses, and individual campus engagement within the project grew from 6 to 22 over the past two years.

With the increase in faculty engagement and ability for students to receive training in key focus areas of cybersecurity and data science, the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence has seen an increase in student participation in events. The engagement of the faculty, the campus leadership, and the industry have all helped Minnesota State System campuses engage students as well.

Expanding to Serve the Industry

Local and state Workforce Centers are very interested in the modules and the impact they can have on Minnesota’s dislocated workers, adult training programs, underserved populations, and workforce development needs. The ITCOE is currently creating bundled packages of modules to train workforce adults across the state. Industry leaders are excited to engage in additional projects with the ITCOE as well. The capability to use and easily transfer modules from Brightspace to other Learning Management Systems has allowed the ITCOE to impact a larger sector of Minnesota than just current System students.

By 2022, the ITCOE’s goal is to have 40 enhanced activities and at least 50 badges and 10 module bundle certificates in Brightspace as part of the individual modules. With this work, the ITCOE will reach more institutions and workforce development organizations while also impacting learner success as they transition from being students to employees.

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