As Anne Arundel Community College continues online learning into the fall, it moves from an emergency phase to recovery phase and is exploring how to reopen, possibly monitoring temperatures and limiting foot traffic into buildings.
“Our primary concern and our No. 1 driver throughout all of this has been on the health and safety of our workforce and our students," President Dawn Lindsay said.
While the school knows it will not have a traditional graduation, it’s still planning the details of how to celebrate while staying safe and looking toward adapting to the new digital environment which will extend until Oct. 26.
The college will hold a car parade on June 12 to celebrate graduates. Faculty and staff will also celebrate the graduates on the sidelines of the route and the event will be streamed online, according to the school’s website.
“We know for sure that we will not be having a traditional graduation. We’re hoping that we can pull something like that off so we have a way to celebrate the success of our students,” she said.
“What is it, specifically, that we need to do to have an action plan to keep people safe,” she said.
The committee has gone over scenarios and discussed things such as monitoring temperatures, limiting foot traffic into buildings and maintaining a smaller number of people on each floor.
The college could also see an increase in enrollment as more students consider community college based on previous trends, especially as people consider new sets of skills in a time of unemployment, Lindsay said.
“Our population of students is usually inversely proportionate to unemployment. People tend to come back to school when there’s a recession to retrain or retool,” she said.
In addition to people returning to school, Lindsay said young adults may reconsider where they are headed to for higher education or parents may not want their children to move away.
“It’s sad because it’s not part of their plan but we certainly want them to know that we’re here for them,” she said.
The college has worked closely with four-year colleges to help students transfer and has taken up a grading system that allows students to choose a traditional letter grade or pass/fail.
Though the college has offered online courses since the ’90s and required faculty to use a learning management system called Canvas, the abrupt change from in-person to online was still felt by many.
“When we had to go online people did not have a choice. One day we were open and the next day we were not. We had to transition quickly and going forward we will do more classes online,” said Colleen Eisenbeiser, the dean for the Learning Advancement and the Virtual Campus.
As the college heads into the summer, professors will have more time and opportunity for training sessions on how to make courses accessible and engaging while still meeting the same standard, Eisenbeiser said.
One of the harder pieces will be the engagement, she said.
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“It doesn’t come as naturally to faculty or to many of our students because they haven’t been in that scenario. It is harder to get involved in the virtual type of course and that learning environment,” Eisenbeiser said.
Still, the college offers resources for both faculty and students to help make the online experience a little easier.
Anne Arundel Community College will also deliver classes into the fall.
This decision was in part an effort to help students and faculty plan and schedule what the next coming months will look like, Lindsay said.
“We want to create a real quality experience for our students where they know what they are going to be taking and they know that they’re going to be taking it safely — so they don’t have to worry about exposure,” she said.
By the beginning of the fall semester, the college will consider extending courses or resuming face-to-face classes past the October date. But for now, they will wait to see if anything changes with the virus, she said.