Joel Lundstrom
Joel Lundstrom
May 7, 2014

The same characteristics and supporting materials that make an online course successful also strengthen a face-to-face course, said Joel Lundstrom, newly hired provost of Des Moines Area Community College in Carroll.

A Perry native, Lundstrom is excited to return to his western Iowa roots - he will lead the community college this fall. Lundstrom will replace Steve Schulz, who resigned last fall to take a position as president of Northern Iowa Community College in Mason City.

Lundstrom earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Northern Iowa in 2000 and his master's degree and doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology from Kansas State University in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

He travels to Carroll from his current position as vice president of student services at Manhattan Area Technical College in Manhattan, Kan. where his duties include oversight of staff; budget management; supervision of financial aid, recruitment, admissions and counseling; and assistance in student retention, assessment, transfer policy and career placement.

Lundstrom started his career as an adjunct professor at Kansas State before joining the faculty at Barton Community College where he rose to associate dean of distance learning, working with more than 12,000 students and 100 faculty members across the country. Located in Fort Riley, Kan., the community college served also a large population of veterans and service members associated with the city's military base for the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division.

During his time at Barton, he also worked on joint efforts with Kansas State University and Kansas University.

His online experience is both as a faculty member and as an administrator, said Lundstrom - a skill he brings to Carroll at a time when rapidly advancing technology and inflated tuition rates are colliding to change the teaching landscape.

When Lundstrom began attending college in the late 1990s, he took all of his courses - about 15 credit hours per semester - face-to-face in a lecture hall or classroom, he said. Today, nearly every student completes some portion of their credits through an online platform.

"It's a big part of what colleges have to do to keep pace," he said.

Competition is greater than ever - the local school isn't "the only game in town" anymore. Another opportunity is "one click away" - making it more common to see three, four or even five schools listed on graduates' transcripts as they attempt to complete classes more efficiently - for both their watches and their wallets.

Incorporating online resources can increase the value of all classes, making it easier to hold students accountable, Lundstrom said - instructors can see whether students have accessed the resources, how long they spent with the various documents and when they last referred to class texts. It also enables college departments focused on retention to respond more quickly - students who did not log into an online class platform within two hours of its opening were far less likely to complete the course than their peers, Lundstrom said - so retention officers could begin immediate follow-up to ensure that students could access their materials.

Constant online communication can also make it easier for students to reach their instructors, he added.

This platform can be particularly useful for veterans who aim to continue their education with a specific goal in mind, Lundstrom observed - an area of his experience that could prove critical as Gov. Terry Branstad encourages returning service members to settle in Home Base Iowa communities.

"They're very focused on what they want, and they can be more assertive at making sure their needs are met," said Lundstrom of his past nontraditional veteran students.

They want a career - not just a degree - and the practices designed for the military students then benefit the college's remaining student population as well, Lundstrom said.

But the online platform isn't a cure-all, he stressed. Often, the factors that make attending traditional classes unfeasible - juggling child care duty or a full-time job - also make it difficult to find time to log in.

Lundstrom said he was impressed during his visits to hear community members repeat how happy they were to have DMACC in Carroll, and to see the college cooperate with and engage area high schools.

Self-proclaimed sports fans, Lundstrom said area residents can expect to see he and his family - his wife, Kristen, also from Perry, and their two sons, Tyson, 10, and Charlie, 6 - in the bleachers at local high school events and in the stands at nearby college games.