For Students Struggling with Remote Learning: ‘We Will Help’
Lone Star College, a system with seven campuses and 10 workforce centers, serves students in and around Houston, Texas.
“Even before the virus, we had one of the largest online enrollments in the country,” says Stephen C. Head, chancellor of Lone Star. “We had about 30,000 students online.”
Being experienced with online education was a boon, but it didn’t make the shift to fully remote learning easy.
“We offer about 9,000 sections every semester,” says Head. “We moved 97 percent of our classes online in about three weeks.” Head and his team are still formulating a plan for those workforce programs that cannot be adapted to an online format.
Lone Star offered intensive training for faculty to support them through the switch. “We’ve certified almost 3,000 faculty to teach online,” says Head.
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Head worries that the rapid shift, while necessary, has the potential to deepen the digital divide — a risk he’s trying to mitigate while preparing for whatever fall 2020 may hold.
“We are moving ahead to purchase 5,000 laptops for our students,” says Head. “Eleven to 12 percent of our entering students are going to need help with either a computer or internet.” The HP laptops will be loaded with the software students need and loaned out like library books. Lone Star has also provided some employees with large HP monitors and is accelerating its digital textbooks program.
Ultimately, Head and his team are staying nimble and trying to ensure that students feel cared for and supported. “We’re reaching out, we’re recruiting, we’re sending out postcards and putting ads in the paper,” says Head.
“The message is: We will help you. Don’t give up,” he adds.
Tips for Innovating the Remote Learning Experience
Stanly Community College in Albemarle, N.C., was able to bring all but three classes online as the pandemic loomed. John Enamait, president of the college, credits innovative and creative faculty with the breadth of programming that is now being offered remotely.
For example, he cites collision repair courses.
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“Our program head recorded himself taking a car apart and putting it back together so our students could have the experience of seeing what that would look like,” Enamait says. Faculty members have been able to leverage the college’s existing inventory of GoPro cameras and a mobile-friendly learning management system to rapidly get this type of content to students.
Throughout the transition, Enamait has relied heavily on the college’s technology staff to keep instruction flowing.
“We have a really strong IT staff,” notes Enamait. “We’ve got several different departments touching technology. We’ve got the instructional IT faculty who are teaching IT. We’ve got an e-learning department that is training our faculty on how to use technology. And, of course, we’ve got the IT staffers who are supporting the networks and facilitating virtual private network access.”