by Dr. David Devier, Glen Oaks President
As winter semester opened on January 11, Glen Oaks Community College was operating at 80% virtual-based instruction. This is a significant change from fall semester when only 35% was totally virtual. The college operated well in the fall until the eleventh week when the pandemic really hit St. Joseph County hard and most operations had to be moved off campus once again. This was the second semester in a row that the decision had to be made to basically close down the campus. While the second time was easier to manage based on the experience of last winter, it was difficult for students and faculty to switch during the semester.
This being the case, the decision was made to move the majority of classes virtual for Winter 2021, and spare everyone from the potential of having to switch once again if the pandemic worsened. A couple things are different this semester. First, many of the virtual classes are being offered synchronous via the ZOOM platform. This works well as it emulates the normal classroom experience and provides for class interaction in real time. The one facet that makes it less flexible than traditional online asynchronous classes is that the students have to be online at the given day and time.
The only classes actually being held in-seat on campus are those that require lab experiences including nursing, allied health, automotive tech, Ag tech, and welding. It should be noted, that the automotive and welding CTE classes that are hosted on campus are in-seat each day though with reduced numbers on alternating days. They plan to return fully to campus in normal operations in the near future. This will see the return of graphic design and the two information technology CTE offerings on site as well.
The Devier Suites housing had to close down in November as well but opened for this semester with approximately 70% occupancy. The majority of these students are athletes. All athletic programs will be in competition beginning in early February. These sports include woman’s volleyball, which was moved forward from the fall, men’s and woman’s basketball, men’s baseball, woman’s softball, golf, and bowling. After losing all spring sports last year, everyone is looking forward to resuming this spring.
We are proud of the efforts of faculty and staff throughout this challenging year. Every student has been served well in the face of the many changes that had to be made. One of those events that was lost was graduation and every effort is being made to determine how we may hold commencement this spring and allow 2020 graduates the opportunity to participate with 2021, completers.
I closing, I will say that Glen Oaks has managed the many challenges brought on by the pandemic because of all the hard work of every employee. The students need to be complimented for their resilience and commitment to their educational goals. While there is a time in the future when operations will be back to somewhat normal, the college is changed forever and many of the best practices we have developed to serve students at a distance will remain.