What It Takes For Community Colleges To Stay Flexible During COVID-19

Jun 17, 2020

When COVID-19 closed campuses across the country, community colleges also had to quickly maneuver to online classes.

Eamon Newman is the assistant dean for online and flexible delivery at Waubonsee Community College.

He said the college was planning to increase the use of alternate instruction. And with in-person classes still uncertain, it’s also expanding flex learning options for students in the fall semester.

“They have the choice of whether to attend face-to-face for a particular class session or to attend online,” he said.

Newman says the online version is a lot like a Zoom lecture.               

The COVID-19 pandemic moved most classes online during the spring. But there are some classes that don’t translate well. 

Vocational classes at Waubonsee Community College, like welding, are continuing into the summer so they can work in small groups with social distancing stipulations. For health professional classes like nursing, it helped that they were already very familiar with Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.

Newman says science labs had to get creative to make online work. Biology and chemistry became eScience labs with take-home experiment kits.

“Going into it wasn't something that really any of the science faculty were that interested in,” said Newman. “But now after it's kind of eye-opening just to see like, oh, wow, this essentially can work.” 

Students often had to take home more basic materials. Technology gaps persisted for students and faculty. 

The college had to coordinate for students to safely pick up webcams and laptops so they could finish their classes.

Economic downturns have sometimes coincided with community college enrollment increases

Newman says it’s still too early to tell if that’ll be the case this fall. But he says they’re prepared to scale up if they need to and meet any technology gaps students coming in might have.