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Class Roll - Collaborative Mobile Access and Support - updated 2/26 Prototype

A mobile support bus equipped with computer/internet access and on-board advisor in rural areas supports students accessing HE anywhere.

Photo of Terry Hosler
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Class Roll

See attachments for User Experience Map, Prototype and Additional Resources.

Context and Need

In many parts of America and the world, accessibility to higher education, particularly through multiple options is limited by distance and technology access.

In the south, the plains and mountain areas of America, for instance, a single county can be easily 40 or 50 miles from end to end with no public transportation, a single public library, very limited employment opportunities or educational options with the closest campuses often in the next county or more than 20 miles away (a quick conversion for New York City would be 20 blocks per mile so…approximately 400 blocks away with no subway, taxi or bus!)

If you don’t have a reliable car, online classes are your only option to higher education without finding a way to afford living on campus. Broadband access may not be available. According to 2016 statistics by Internet Live Stats, over a million Americans still have no access to the internet in their home.  Six of the counties in the eastern Kentucky mountains are listed among the poorest counties in America, with eight being among the 25 worst counties in America list for economic opportunity. Although broadband may be 'as close as the pole outside the house', the closest free wi-fi may only be gained at the Wendy’s or Subway restaurants 15-20 miles away. Families below the poverty line have little, if any, funds to pay for internet access in their homes even if a student’s tuition may be covered by their financial aid.

With only online access to support and very limited transportation to physical campuses, first generation students are often isolated and confused by the processes and multiple online tools and accesses to resources and protocols necessary for success.

I am absolutely not painting a picture of destitution only of challenges. The people in rural America work hard, are proud of where they come from and care strongly about a better future for their children and their communities.

There are very bright minds with big dreams and ideas for solving the problems of the future. Innovation and persistence are found in every hollow, mountain top and plain. If rural American counties, like many places around the globe, could bottle their natural beauty, cultural richness and boundless potential they would be wealthy beyond measure.


In an age where we seem to access anything digitally to be delivered to our homes, we can provide online access to higher education but are still expecting students to find a way to a physical campus for support and guidance.

There are examples of options for innovation and reimagining, using technology to provide access and support though higher education to isolated, challenged areas.

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) is the agency responsible for managing student loans and state level scholarships, supporting financial aid for the state and providing information on college enrollment across the Commonwealth. One of the services KHEAA offers is a retrofitted bus with a satellite dish and workstations so that students in remote areas can do financial aid and scholarship searches as well as explore college options and websites. Called the College Info Road Show, (see photos) there is only one and it is booked to visit K-12 schools across the state.

Building on Kate Rushton’s Challenge Thoughtstarter: Higher Education Remote Location Service , this idea is an expansion and enhancement of my post Have Advice, Will Travel .

Solution Idea

What if….we took the KHEAA bus idea only instead of information on financial aid for high school students, it functions as a rolling classroom and/or advisement center for higher education options from multiple institutions. Visiting communities on a regular schedule the bus would carry an advisor who could be working through a financial aid process with one student while another participates in an online project from a different college or a multi-student forum or study group works on a project with other students in remote locations.

The bus could also serve as a ‘lifelong learner’ location for adults, parents or senior citizens learning college information, computer usage or opportunities for additional training. The satellite dish allows connection to the internet from even the most isolated communities.

Logistics/Implementation Needs:

  1. Partnership agreements (MOA) would need to be drawn and applications filed for supporting grants and corporate funding requests, information/data sharing and role definition. This would also include working with corporate/industrial partners, internet access providers and insurance coverage.
  2. Participating colleges would supply a list of students in the proposed service area. Each school would send out a notice to online students or even commuting students in the area about the availability of support in their community/neighborhood and an interest survey assessing types of support needs.
  3. A bus would need to be located and retrofitted with workstations and satellite accessibility equipment.
  4. A driver/advisor would need to be located and trained with each participating program or institution as needed for student guidance.
  5. Participating students would need to provide a FERPA release for the Advisor in order for the college to allow the Advisor access to student information or to discuss support needs with student without the student present if needed. When actually on the bus, however, the student would login to the campus site under their own credentials.
  6. A route would need to be mapped based on student concentration or other needs – i.e. adult single day training opportunity. Agreements/permission would be gained for use of business parking lots.
  7. A schedule would need to be developed. The schedule would adjust each semester or season based on the needs of participants. For example, use by senior citizen groups or industry training opportunities could be scheduled for college breaks or stops at Farmer’s Markets for summer access by the community.
  8. Participants contact information will be collected so that they can be sent reminders of a Class Roll stop/schedule or notified of changes in schedule or route due to weather or special event.
  9. Notify media of program. Publicity will assist with funding, support and advertising the program to potential participants.

     10.  Until the bus is road ready, services could be made available by have the advisor do phone/email contacts or in centralized locations utilizing any available wifi and/or a hotspot hub.


Insights, Barriers and Challenges

Weather Issues- Although the Class Roll Support Bus could be used for online classes in many locations, weather issues would make this use unreliable for Appalachia and other mountain areas dealing with snow or ice resulting in dangerous travel conditions and cancelled visits in winter terms. A student support focus, however, could be an extremely valuable adjustment. Should the bus not be able to run one day due to road conditions, the Advisor would notify any known participants and offer to assist them as much as possible over the phone or online using platforms such as Google Hangouts or Skype.

Resources – Development of materials with commonalities (glossary of terms and titles – i.e. bursar, registrar, provost) as well as specialized for a particular campus (a community college’s online Student Services Account vs EKU Direct) would need to be available in print for use with participants as reference material.

Maintenance – Scheduling and funding for regular maintenance and upgrading of electronic equipment and software as well as the bus itself must be considered in the budget for the project.


The ultimate goal of Class Roll is to foster student confidence, self-sufficiency and independence. A progressive student development assessment at the beginning and end of each semester will be used for adjustments to the program. As in any campus support service some students will need more assistance than others for varying amounts of time.

The Class Roll Support Bus program is intended to do higher educational outreach to the whole community in addition to individualized support for enrolled students.


Readers and OpenIDEO members have contributed a lot of feedback and refinement ideas for Class Roll including:

  • creating an app for scheduling a stop or appointment on Class Roll and for showing the stops on any given day.

  • combining with other services such as health or adult education or tax services to outreach to more in a one-stop shop format for additional members of the family as well as students.

  • utilize a phased rollout of Class Roll - 1) work with text/phone/online support; 2)transition advisors would work with students in their senior year and on college campuses; 3) add bus for mobile element to support more isolated students;  4) expand services to include adult education and industrial training opportunities providing for marketing and funding opportunities based on success/challenges of each preceeding phase.

See attachments for User Experience Map, Prototype and Additional Resources.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Rural or isolated communities, particularly low-income or heavy first-generation populations, higher education institutions, sponsoring industries and corporations. Though a multi-institution collaboration rural and isolated communities gain accessibility to higher education through mobile access and support bus equipped with satellite dish and workstations as well as trained support staff.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Input on developing the collaboration and funding opportunities in addition to ideas on how resource would work in your area or how it could be expanded to support larger segments of the population with access and transportation challenges.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

As an early option, we could work with the resources already in place with KHEAA to expand the support to more than just access information and financial aid information. Or work with mobile Wi-Fi or just a mobile support advisor at area gathering locations such as churches, community centers or elementary schools, or farmer's markets.

Tell us about your work experience:

Over my near 40 year career, I have experience in education, healthcare, youth development, higher education and secondary education as well as the non-profit and governmental realms.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone? 2-3 sentences.

Class Roll is a mobile computer and college access/support lab. It can provide online services from classes to communication to collaborative projects in remote or isolated areas as well as personal advisement and mentoring for success.

What is the specific problem your idea is trying to solve? 1 sentence.

Class Roll addresses the issue of Higher Education accessibility and persistence support particularly focusing on rural, low-income, first-generation or isolated students of all ages along a life-long learning continuum.

How is your idea different or unique from what is currently on the market?

Class Roll has the Higher Education option of online access in isolated communities and blends it with the trained human support element bringing access and support to the student in their own community reducing the limitations of local access and lack of transportation.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Class Roll's impact could be measured through the following methodologies: 1) numbers of students accessing Higher Education or gaining support through the program. 2) student retention and persistence increases linked with support provided through the program. 3) increasing enrollment and participation though linking the program with existing community events/agencies/opportunities?

How might your idea be transferable to a large number of people?

As suggested in the comments, the access could be expanded in a given community through adding additional tablets to the stable workstations. Schedule adjustments could also provide expanded opportunities. For example, working with parents and other family and community members during summers or break periods as well as being available for industry trainings at on-site locations. It could be replicated without the bus resource with a portable hotspot wifi hub in some locations for lower cost.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Develop transitional opportunities - perhaps a Wi-Fi or Hotspot traveling tablet lab to develop interest and limited access along with staffing a college transition counselor to begin building trust and relationships in communities. Surveys and resource mapping and needs assessment would need to be conducted as well as possible route mapping for priority and pilot programs.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Helen Wang

Hi Terry,

I really like the idea of bringing a mobile higher education platform to students who may not have access otherwise. Education can transform someone's life and present great opportunities to make an impact.

I have a few questions regarding the logistics of such a mobile platform. Would the same advisor be working with the same students every week (or however often the meetings are)? Would different advisors be in the bus for different academic subjects? Also, in the description, it mentions a scenario where "an advisor could be working through a financial aid process with one student while another participates in an online project from a different college." Are advisors serving as teachers or are they acting more as facilitators? In other words, do they teach content or simply provide opportunities for students to exercise their knowledge?

I'm excited to see where this idea goes!

Photo of Terry Hosler

Thank Helen!
Regarding your questions...
Ideally it would be the same advisor so that the student could develop a supportive relationship with them.
The advisor, as envisioned in Class Roll, is more of a facilitator who works with student success issues. In other situations it could very well be a teacher in a small group setting.

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