What innovations, products and resources created by ATE centers continue to influence technician education after center funding ends?

The ATE program has made significant investments into national, regional and resource centers to promote collaborations of community colleges and the scaling and sustainability of advanced technological education at community colleges that educate students for participation in the high technology workforce.  Many of these centers lasted many years over several funding cycles, often starting out as regional centers before scaling up nationally. 

This project will explore the legacy of ATE centers by investigating which ideas, innovations, knowledge and products developed by the center that continue to evolve and be used. This project will ask 8 of the ATE centers that have concluded over the last 10 years (of which there are 15), to provide an “epilogue” to their final report using a common reporting template, and to participate in a structured interview.

Approach:

  1. Develop an Epilogue to the final report for 8 ATE centers focusing on scale and sustainability
  2. Identify themes across 8 centers to illustrate how the value of an ATE center is scaled and/or sustained.
    1. Review existing documentation
    2. Interviews
  3. Testimony and verification from external sources

Value:

  1. Current PIs learn from their predecessors
  2. Proposers plan for scale & sustainability
  3. Prepare reviewers to better judge proposals
  4. Support evaluation & documentation of impacts
  5. Uncover the potential impact and possible limitations of a center-based approach to education

December 2018

Preliminary conversations have been held with four of the projects that will be participating in the EPILOGUE study.  These conversations have been inspiring and reaffirms the need for a study that captures the long-term impacts of the ATE investment.  Even with these brief conversations, it is apparent that longevity is influenced by a host of factors, many of which were explored as part of a SageFox study of the I-Corps for Learning (ICL) program in which NSF-funded educational innovations went through a course to learn how to commercialize, scale, and/or sustain their innovations.  The SynergyRPT study (SageFox served as the project evaluator)in which 13 ATE centers came together to deal with the “wicked problem” of scaling an innovation also provided deep insights into scaling ATE innovations. .  Some of the themes we identified that led to more success included:

  • How the innovation was funded including the amount of NSF investment prior to the course.  Those with greater funding history were more likely to have evidence that the innovation was worthy of scaling.
  • The team members’ motivations and background have an impact on how an innovation scales/sustains.  Teams that scale broadly are often designed to do so early, and have team members that understand how to leverage relationships, and to build the legal, financial and organizational capacity to scale.  
  • Understanding the influence network and how to leverage relationships is critical to getting the innovation adopted/adapted
  • “Letting go” of the original design of an innovation so it can be adopted/adapted to a unique context is essential.  Many projects that allowed for this flexibility also uncovered new ways in which the innovation can add value.
  • Luck is often a key ingredient to success, but the innovations that last are well positioned to take advantage of opportunities that come there way.  

Our ICL report can be found here.  This study will provide some of the foundation for

November 2018

We’re excited that we had 17 applicants representing 16 centers respond to our request for participation!  The study team and advisory board are currently making a final determination for which centers to include in our study. We may decide to start with a subset of centers and expand over time to capitalize on what we learn from early participation and go deeper with the others.  The breadth of innovations recommended for study is interesting and seems to reflect what we heard from centers at the PI meeting- everything from scaling the use of curricular materials to changing the core function of a center to ensure it’s longevity and relevance to bringing together a network of previously disconnected colleges.  In December we will be reaching out to sites to confirm participation and will be delving deeply into instrumentation.

October 2018

The EPILOGUE project launched at the ATE PI meeting in Washington DC in late October where we convenined our advisory board, met members of the community at our showcase booth, and led a discussion about scaling and (or) sustaining ATE innovations.  Over the course of the three days we were motivated by the positive response to our plans, interest in potential results, and the willingness of attendees to share examples of how their work has endured. So motivated, in fact, that we’ve decided to try and collect these examples.  We invite anyone (projects or centers, active or sunset) to use the submission form to the right to tell us about these efforts!  These stories will help us shape our data collection instruments with study sites, and we’d also like to share these stories more broadly as part of our dissemination efforts.