Pandemic-learned lesson guides change, improves student success; MCC closes the digital divide for students with technology needs

MCC President, Dr. Tammy Robinson, greets iBelong student during iPad checkout event.
MCC President, Dr. Tammy Robinson,
greets iBelong student during iPad
checkout event.

MESA, Ariz. – Sept. 11, 2023 – Mesa Community College (MCC) dismantled structural barriers and increased student success with the launch of the iBelong Student Success Initiative, a common platform for teaching and learning using an iPad Bundle consisting of an iPad, keyboard and Apple Pencil.

The initiative is proving to be extremely beneficial for students and faculty and is demonstrating a cost-savings for the college, said Alvin Bridges, MCC associate vice president in College Technology Services.

“In just over two years the iBelong Student Success Initiative has gained the support of more than 100 faculty members and the tools are being used by more than 2,000 students with a demonstrated need to support their education,” he explained.

In addition to helping students access course materials, tools and resources, save money on technology and improve the way they engage in their course(es), the initiative efficiently delivers high impact experiences both in and out of the classroom with equity for all MCC students.

Seventy nine percent of students participating in the iBelong initiative ranked the iPad bundle an eight or higher, on a scale of 1-10, when asked if they believe the iPad contributed to their learning. “This single piece of technology has helped change a lifelong academic struggler into an aspiring straight-A student,” noted one iBelong student participant.

MCC President, Dr. Tammy Robinson, poses with two iBelong program participants.
MCC President, Dr. Tammy Robinson,
poses with iBelong program participants.

Most students use the iPads for homework, projects and assignments, taking notes and recordings, accessing lectures or recorded lectures and research.

Said one student benefiting from the initiative, “It's amazing how a college has made it possible for me to have access to a high quality tablet at no additional cost. I am very impressed with how far MCC has come in this regard. I do not have a computer at the moment and it was extremely important to have the tablet to use.”

Another student noted that The opportunity to use this device was essential to improving and enhancing my learning experience, especially given the prevalence of technology use in my own and many other career fields.”

Students, faculty and staff were provided with support and training to learn how to effectively use the iPad bundle, Bridges added.

“We offered training to employees prior to testing use of iPads to ensure employees interacting with students and their course work were adept at using the devices and that they would be able to walk students through processes using iPad functions,” said Patricia Herrera, MCC instructional technologist. “Each iPad used in the initiative was preloaded with a standard set of applications, links to iPad tutorials, shortcuts to important college webpages and the RISE app -- developed by students for students to help locate nearby basic needs resources.”

“Students typically have a little trepidation about using the tool, by the end of the semester, they’ve become information curators. I recall one of my students stating, ‘It’s

MCC President, Dr. Tammy Robinson, trys out one of the iPads being loaned to students.
MCC President, Dr. Tammy Robinson,
trys out an iPad being
loaned to students through the
iBelong program.

like holding the future in my hands,’ said Beth Alsen, MCC Education Studies faculty. “I use the device to teach. My students use it to transform how they take notes and share information. One of my students demonstrated note taking in his math class, awing even the faculty member who reached out to me to learn more. It is phenomenal to see students taking ownership of their learning; that transcends teaching and learning for me.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic MCC provided laptops to students needing a device for course work. Preparing the devices for student use off the campus network took hours and the devices needed to be returned every 90 days for required manual relicensing.

By switching to iPads, devices could be prepared and personalized for a student’s individual needs in a matter of minutes and updated remotely.

“The rolling out of the iBelong initiative was much less cumbersome, resulting in an overall cost savings for the college,” added Bridges. “Our plan is to continue expanding to support other programs. We will start with Exercise Science and Bachelor of Art in Early Childhood Education-Dual Language.”

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer, 480-461-7892,

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for university transfer, career and technical programs, civic engagement, service-learning and innovative approaches to education. Host to more than 24,400 students annually, MCC offers degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations. On average MCC students provide 23,000 hours of community service annually. For more than 50 years, the college has served as a resource for education, workforce development and lifelong learning. MCC is transforming student success through Guided Pathways with Integrated Support Services and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. MCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution. Nearly 50% of MCC students are the first in their families to attend college. MCC has the largest indigenous student population of all the Maricopa Community Colleges. The American Indian Institute serves students from 22 federally recognized Arizona tribes and out-of-state tribes. Our diverse student body includes hundreds of international students from around the world. Award-winning faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to attain their goals. Located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, on the traditional territories of the O'odham, Piipaash and Yavapai Peoples, MCC is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Visit to learn more.

MCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC),

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin. A lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in the career and technical education programs of the District. MCCCD does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities. For Title IX/504 concerns, call the following number to reach the appointed coordinator: (480) 731-8499. For additional information, as well as a listing of all coordinators within the Maricopa College system, visit

Source Details

Publication Date: 
Monday, September 11, 2023