Glen Oaks Community College

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Katherine Wickey studies from home online

Online learning presents challenges for teachers and students

The shift to online learning across the county has presented challenges for students, faculty and staff alike, as continued adjustments are made to meet the need for students to complete classes.

“Many of our professors have never taught online classes before and had to swiftly transition their face-to-face classes over the course of a weekend,” said Michael Goldin, VP of academics.

The college transitioned to online classes beginning March 16, initially thinking it would be a three-week span, but with the Governor’s shelter-in-place orders, Glen Oaks extended online learning through the end of the semester.

Faculty deliver content in new ways
Michael Northrop, professor of art, is teaching Drawing, 3-D Design, Painting and Watercolor this semester along with instructing students who are in the capstone portfolio class.

“In addition to meeting with my students through online conferencing,” said Northrop, “I am recording videos in my studio which will serve as demonstrations for them when we start the next unit. The videos will help students finish projects they started earlier when the class was meeting face to face.”

Michelle McNamara, professor of communications, says her students have been remarkably resilient through this difficult transition.  “The first week was rough, I would guess I put in 80 hours of work just moving all of my face-to-face lectures and activities into our new platform, but after overcoming the initial shock of it all— everyone has done an outstanding job.”

“I had students with speeches that needed to be delivered and the concern was how that was going to work online, but we found a way,” said McNamara. “Students have been uploading speeches through our online classrooms and YouTube where I can grade them and their classmates can offer critique. In other classes I have held Zoom lectures and students seem to value our new “normal” way of interacting.  It is certainly preparing them to be flexible!”

McNamara has 154 students and the majority were well equipped for this switch. “Obviously, some have better Internet service than others—last week I had one student upload her speech video from her local McDonald’s parking lot,” said McNamara. “She prefaced the speech by telling us where she was and why this was the best Wi-Fi she could find with the shutdown of campus and her high school.”

“Another student logged into Zoom from his local library parking lot sharing that his car was cleaner and more quiet than his house right now—and the library Internet was stronger than his was out in the country,” said McNamara.

“Students are finding ways and faculty have worked countless hours to make sure this work,” said McNamara. “Teachers and students all over the world are being asked to change the way they do things and as a Glen Oaks professor and alumna, I am really proud of the way we continue to handle this.”

Students are facing new learning challenges
On the other side of the fence—there are the students, and for many, this may be their first time experiencing online classes.

Katherine Wickey, of Sturgis, MI, is a first-year nursing student taking pharmacology, medical surgical and maternity nursing classes this semester. She was working on her clinicals at Elkhart General Hospital when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“On March 12, we were told that we would no longer be allowed to go into isolation rooms at EGH in effort to conserving personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gowns, gloves and masks, in anticipation of COVID-19 making its way to the Midwest. The next day we were told that we would not be allowed to return to the hospital—the same day the governor mandated the closure of all schools.”

Having taken online classes in the past, navigating the system hasn’t been a problem for Wickey. “My husband and I have three small children,” said Wickey, “so the biggest challenge has been creating a schedule that allows for my own studying and making sure that my kindergartner keeps up with his work from school. I am very blessed that my husband is able to be home to take care of the kids when I need to study.”

“No one could have imagined we would be facing a pandemic in the middle of our semester, so I certainly never imagined I would be doing more than half a critical semester of a nursing program online—a patient-oriented profession, one that requires a lot of personal communication,” said Wickey.

Wickey speaks well of the college’s faculty and staff. “The director of nursing and instructors have been in constant contact,” says Wickey. “They’ve made themselves readily available through phone, text or email. We are using the ZOOM platform to communicate with each other via video chat. I know they are working tirelessly to arrange our schedules, mandatory testing and our clinical experiences in this unprecedented time.”

“The current pandemic we are facing as a nation is a reminder of the very serious reality that awaits us as we finish our nursing education, and the weight our education holds,” said Wickey. “It dictates our ability to provide the best and safest possible care, so it is understandable that our instructors have a tremendous amount of pressure to get us where we need to be as nurses.”

“While I personally have not needed assistance from Glen Oaks,” said Wickey, “I know they’ve made laptops and hotspots available as well as tutors, via the Internet. This is an unprecedented time and I am confident that everyone is working hard to keep the students moving in the right direction.”

For Brooke Sexton, of Leonidas, MI, pursuing a general studies degree, online schooling has been an easier transition than what she expected. I have taken a few online classes before, so I felt comfortable on the Canvas platform as well as the online atmosphere,” said Sexton. “Currently, I am working on keeping a more consistent schedule—going from being extremely busy before the COVID-19 hit, to now having a very open schedule. A few tips that I found helpful came from a message sent out by GOCC aptly entitled “Tips for Staying on Track with School While at Home.”

“Although it is disappointing to not have that in-class experience where dialogue is much more personal, between updates and emails sent by professors, it is obvious the entire college has been working hard despite the present situation,” said Sexton. “For that I want to thank each member and encourage them to stick with it! As students, we recognize that the circumstances are less than ideal, and appreciate the lengths the staff has gone to ensure that its students are still getting quality education.”