Case Study: Santa Monica College

Community colleges have long been an integral part of the higher education landscape, and now their popularity is increasing. Offering a transition from high school to university as well as a range of practical certifications and associate’s degrees, community colleges are an invaluable resource to their local regions. These schools not only offer an affordable education, but they provide access to many opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.

The fact sheet below illustrates out some of the known benefits community colleges provide students:

Image courtesy the American Association of Community Colleges.

A New Mandate for California Community Colleges

In light of their vital role, California passed legislation in 2016 that will enable its community colleges to provide even more value. SB 850 allows up to fifteen community college districts to confer bachelor’s degrees in a field of study not offered by the California State University or University of California.

Santa Monica College was one of the fifteen community colleges approved for the Bachelor’s Degree-granting program. Its leadership understood that students have been looking for training to attain one of the most sought-after jobs, Interaction Designer (often called a User Experience designer). But historically, they had very few training options–and those that were available were prohibitively expensive for most. The California State school system didn’t have any universities offering a Bachelor of Science in Interactional Design, and only two private schools offered such a program–for a hefty fee of $160,000. So, Santa Monica College responded to this unique opportunity by offering a new program. At just over $10,000, their BS in Interaction Design is an affordable pathway to one of the most sought after occupations.

During the deliberations over SB 850, major Los Angeles-area technology and entertainment companies sent over 100 letters of support to affirm the benefit that an affordable degree program in Interaction Design would create for their businesses. Giants like Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Disney, Fox TV, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Amazon Web Services all declared their support for programs that would produce more of the qualified employees they need to enhance their customers’ experiences with their products and services. Steve Vincent, Vice President of Music and Soundtracks at the Disney Channel, made the following observation:

"The Interaction Design Field has evolved so quickly, even the tech industry can barely keep up with its growth—the shortage of skilled interaction designers is just overwhelming. We need these graduates to continue our symbiotic relationship with the economy of Los Angeles and California."

Technology and entertainment industries are not the only ones who support expanding the mandate of community colleges. California Governor Jerry Brown has been a strong supporter of giving educational institutions the tools they need to flourish in a rapidly-evolving market:

“I think we have to get a very broad sense of what higher education is – and higher education now is breaking free of the more traditional parameters, constraints and images.”

The tools educational institutions need are not only curricular and degree-granting, they are also on the admissions side of the process. Seeing what applicant’s currently make is a great way to help understand individual ambitions and create the best incoming class. Doing this at scale is the challenge.

SlideRoom for Portfolio Review

To help accommodate a new admissions process for an unprecedented program, Santa Monica College turned to SlideRoom. In addition to reviewing prior academic achievement, they needed a way to review the supplemental material to properly assess applicants for the new Bachelor of Science in Interaction Design program. So, once an applicant interested in the program applied to Santa Monica College (or declared their interest in the program if they were an existing student), they are directed to Santa Monica College’s SlideRoom portal to present supplemental material.

From their instructions:

  • Design Development: sketches and other documentation that show the development of your ideas and your design process including your understanding of the user and user research.
  • Mockup and/or Prototype: mockups or design comps, including a prototype of your design concept if possible.
  • Project Description: a brief explanation of your project including your contribution to the project.

At SlideRoom, we’re proud to bring our years of product experience to support this pioneering program at Santa Monica College. Comprehensive evaluation tools, automated workflows, and collaborative decision making tools will all help to streamline the admissions process for applicants and administrators.

If you’re a community college looking for a solution like the one Santa Monica College implemented, let’s chat. We’re excited to hear from you!

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