$3M federal grant to help Kilgore College expand online classes

Student worker Sydni Borders works in May at the visitor center in the Devall Student Center  at Kilgore College. A federal grant for nearly $3 million will allow some students to complete their associate degree either entirely or nearly entirely online.

An almost $3 million federal grant awarded to Kilgore College will be used to significantly increase the number of online class options available to students, the school announced this week.

The grant — $2,998,352 over five years — is a Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and Kilgore College is one of two two-year schools in the country to receive it.

About 50 online classes are expected to be designed or redesigned as a result of the grant, with students being able to complete an associate degree in computer networking entirely online and an associate degree in criminal justice almost entirely online, the school said.

“This is a proud moment for Kilgore College as we strive to make a profound impact on the lives of our students with increased options thanks to upgrading our technology,” Kilgore College President Brenda Kays said in a statement. “We could not be more excited about receiving the Title III grant. Technology is paramount in expanding options for our students and increasing our student success rates.

“Without improving and upgrading the technology in the classroom, on-campus and online, it is virtually impossible to do so.”

A school survey conducted this year showed about 36 percent of students travel 40 miles or more round-trip to attend classes, officials said. That’s in addition to more than half of the student body working outside of school, and officials said they hope expanded online course offerings will provide needed flexibility and improve student retention.

In addition to expanding online course offerings, grant funds will be used to upgrade technology infrastructure to support creation, delivery and access to those courses; video and audio equipment to create courses instruction materials; closed captioning services for students who need it; the creation of an online course readiness assessment; a new online advising system; and a redesign of an online orientation system.

The college also plans to fund a faculty innovation center, where staff can work to establish online courses and supplemental materials, as well as professional development related to Title III and online learning best practices.