Guest Column: CCAC goes remote

Dr. Stuart Blacklaw, CCAC Provost and Executive Vice President

More than 100 people logged on to a Zoom presentation two weeks ago to learn and share ideas, ask questions, and come together around the challenges of this unprecedented experience. By all accounts, things are going well. The devil, it is said, is in the details.

People from across the college are working (almost entirely remotely) on those details. All are doing amazing things.

We have converted hundreds of courses from face-to-face to alternative delivery formats. The enormity of this task is something that no college would take on unless forced to do so by circumstances. Those circumstances forcing us are twofold: a virus and a passion. It would be easier to go into hiding and ride out the storm, but we are a group of people who chose to rise to the occasion – to do what it takes to keep our students on track. It is remarkable to say the least and I thank all for your commitment and courage.

The Center for Teaching and Learning, the Virtual Campus, and the ITS department have been collaborating on a series of trainings in order to assist faculty with the move to remote instruction. Training sessions include: accessing and making the most out of Blackboard; recording lectures using Panopto; using Zoom to hold synchronous discussions; and testing and assessing learning remotely. The trainings have been held several times a day and attended by 30-60 participants. They are then archived on the Teaching Remotely  resource guide for viewing on demand.

In addition, faculty have been gathering daily since March 14 to engage in discussions moderated by Dr. Ebony English, the Endowed Professor for Teaching and Learning. The conversations center around sharing tips, tricks, and other best practices for remote instruction and provide a forum for faculty to support each other as they transition online. A collaborative website has been developed for faculty to share articles and links to additional resources. Finally, the deans have been hosting virtual conversations by discipline to facilitate sharing ideas about teaching remotely across the college. Although the semester has been disrupted, the conversations about pedagogy and the flexibility and commitment demonstrated by faculty have been extraordinary.

The products of that work launched on March 25.

Simultaneously, hundreds of others have been working to build the support mechanism that our faculty and students need. We now offer Student Services in a remote manner to our students in ways far beyond what we offered only 10 days ago. We have established a weekly calendar of activities and events as a reference tool for students. We began remote/virtual Academic Advising on March 24, and we began Tutoring, Math Café and Learning Commons assistance to students remotely the next day.

Supportive Services has been communicating with their identified students to transition to the new learning platform and secure additional support as needed. A communication also went out to faculty as some students may be newly eligible for or choose to activate accommodations as a result of moving to this new learning environment. As we built our new courses, we could not lessen our commitment to those who need accommodations to succeed.

Each day, the Navigators are updating the student COVID-19 FAQ information on the portal to ensure students have the most current information. Registration, Admissions, and Financial Aid are addressing and responding to students via phone, email, and virtual appointments, while Success Coaches, Military & Veterans Services personnel, Navigators, and SPoC staff are working with their assigned students to make sure that the students understand this new environment and how to access services. In addition, Student Success Coaches, Navigators, Perkins staff, Military & Veterans Services personnel, Counselors, Student Life, Supportive Services, and Library staff are hosting open office hours for phone and live chat interactions.

Career Services continues to serve – now offering ZOOM virtual appointments and engaging in other methods, through Appointment Central, Jabber, Pinger texting and email. Student Affairs has stepped up to support the CCAC Campus Community.

Faculty have a challenging new environment to navigate, and our students will likely struggle in a learning environment that they didn’t choose. To ensure that Faculty can keep teaching their content, and not have to carry the full weight of bringing all of our new “remote” students up to speed on Blackboard, all Student Affairs staff have been trained in the Blackboard Learning Management System. This will give the students a large team of knowledgeable people to help them as they get acclimated to this different mode of learning. Of course, the Center for Teaching & Learning, the Virtual Campus team, the Registrar’s Office, and the ITS staff will also continue to provide exceptional support for faculty, students, and staff.

There are still a million details to address. Keep sharing your thoughts, questions, and ideas. Chances are, someone is working on that suggestion you made last week. Every day we solve another group of problems. Every day we become a better CCAC.

I cannot thank you enough for your tremendous dedication.