DOTHAN, Ala. (PR) -- Wallace Community College – Dothan (WCCD) faculty and staff quickly geared up for the change to online classes, but not without careful planning with all stakeholders to brace for the Coronavirus health crisis. It was a plan that came together to support student success and on-time completion for spring.
When the news came that online classes would begin this week, instructors from the Wallace Campus and Sparks Campus attended training sessions, held on Tuesday in computer labs around campus. The sessions were designed to help instructors update their online teaching skills and, most importantly, to help their students learn online.
“These are certainly unprecedented times, but they offer us a unique opportunity ‘to rise to the occasion’ and fully live out the mission of our calling as educators,” said Dr. Linda Young, WCCD president. “And, make no mistake, we are all educators, from the first person a student encounters at WCCD in Admissions to security to maintenance and office staff.”
In navigating the crisis, Wallace students’ safety was the most important factor in the decision to go online. The resolution was made at the state level by Gov. Kay Ivey and Jimmy Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, with full support of WCCD faculty and staff.
The online format gives students everything they need to be successful. Lessons, homework, videos, and communication with instructors will help students complete their spring courses on time. The instructor training was a collaborative effort between Information Technology Services (ITS) and Instruction.
“These training sessions provided information and assistance on using resources and testing products that will be incorporated into our courses as we continue to convert to an online format,” said Leslie Reeder, dean of instruction. “The resources and training will certainly assist our faculty in continuing to provide the highest quality of instruction to our students.”
ITS stepped up and made online courses a reality. The ITS staff quickly repurposed laptops to support employees who do not have computers at home, and reallocated resources to support a remote operational presence.
And students have responded to the extra help they are receiving. “Though this week has been emotional and stressful, I’m continually amazed by Wallace’s faculty. I always adored them, but I respect them even more because of their tenacity in tackling this crazy online adventure, while many of them are homeschooling their kids,” tweeted WCCD student Grace Poynter.
Also important is maintaining communication with students about classes and how to obtain help. Essential personnel at the Wallace Campus in Dothan and the Sparks Campus in Eufaula are available from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admissions, student affairs, and financial aid are accessible online. Emails and voicemail messages are checked several times a day. Instructors are available via email and routinely communicate with students via Blackboard. Critical information is shared via the College website and social media.
The online learning experience offers an opportunity for students to collaborate with each other, creating a virtual community, with unequaled access to their instructors. “My instructors are in constant communication with us and use various tools to continue to hold classes and to assure all students are successful,” said Aleigh Lanier. “Even though we can’t meet face-to-face, my study group continues to meet using Microsoft Teams. It is great to have to ability to continue to see each other and communicate during this time.” Lanier is an Associate Degree Nursing major. She will graduate in May 2021.
The WCC Helpdesk, which provides technical assistance to WCCD faculty, staff, and students, will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Spring Break is March 23-27, during which the Helpdesk will close at 4:30 p.m. (Friday at 2:00). ITS has also created a virtual desktop pool that will allow employees and students to access a full Windows 10 desktop and needed software.
“Through this crisis, we are educating our students how to meet challenges head on and be better and stronger because of it,” said Young. “Over the last several days, I have watched so many of our faculty and staff work tirelessly to ensure the success of our students. They have ‘rolled with the punches’ and moved forward—exactly what I know we will all be doing in the days to com.”