5 Strategies to Prepare Your Online Programs for the Next Crisis – Community College Daily

Community colleges have learned a lot about the strengths as well as the needs of their online programs during the Covid pandemic. As we know, community colleges were much better prepared to go fully online than universities. Since the beginning of online learning in the 1990s, community colleges have seen the potential of online education to dramatically improve student access to higher education. Most community colleges have been early adopters of this teaching modality and have committed to offering fully online teaching as a starting point.

As of March 2020, online education accounted for at least 25% of all community college enrollment – ​​half of community college students reported in national surveys that they had taken at least one course online. The good news in the data is that community college faculty, students, and online programs had a stronger foundation to work from when they were forced to migrate teaching entirely online. Community colleges had also strongly embraced fully online asynchronous learning, which proved to be the most effective AND preferred by most students.

We have also learned about the needs of our online programs due to the need to move entirely online. Many teachers had no training or knowledge of how to teach online. This was especially true for part-time faculty. Before the pandemic, our full-time faculty were increasingly embracing online learning. As a result, part-time faculty covered more in-person classes.

This article is provided by the Educational Technology Councila council affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges.

Our online programs were also understaffed and ill-prepared to exponentially expand their services and support. These programs supported at least 25% of all enrolments. The data of the ITC Annual National Community College Distance Education Survey indicates that nearly 16% of all programs operated without dedicated staff or only part-time and 32% had only one or two staff members.

Here are five strategies to prepare for the next crisis:

Require all in-person courses to have an LMS-assisted web section.

Your institution’s LMS license provides sufficient capacity to implement this initiative. There are inherent advantages to doing this:

  • Major reduction in photocopying/documentation costs for in-person classes.
  • Increased access to course materials for students.
  • Increased use of a standardized gradebook (students love this feature) AND likely ability to interface the LMS with your student information system to automatically report final grades to the Registrar.
  • Biggest benefit: EVERYONE learns to use the institution’s LMS. Teachers/students learn how to access the LMS, how to move content in/out of the platform, can use it as a convenient electronic dropbox for homework, and the ability to conduct quizzes/exams (so, without using any precious time in class). Frankly, the ways to integrate the LMS platform in support of an in-person course are almost endless.

Use the LMS for a wide variety of campus tasks.

The LMS can have a much broader role than just being the platform used to teach online. Campuses use the LMS platform to conduct student assessments for ALL classes, regardless of instructional modality (in-person, hi-flex hybrid, fully online). Student Services can use the platform to support students on probation (using the platform to help the student restore their non-probationary status). Student government can use the platform for training, club activities, and more. Even human resources and/or the training office can use the platform. In doing so, students and faculty develop a culture of familiarity with the LMS and its features – a handy thing to have if the campus suddenly needs to move to fully online education for everyone.

Require all full-time faculty to participate in LMS Professional Development and “How to Teach Online” sessions.

A minimum of six to eight hours of training is the national standard. Let’s face it, most of our full-time professors are already teaching online courses at your institution. The strategy here is to upgrade the rest of the full-time faculty. Considering what everyone just went through during the pandemic, this should be an easy “sell” to full-time faculty. The preparation is good. Not being prepared is chaotic.

Consider a new strategy for faculty, staff and students – laptops/docking stations – and a Wi-Fi hotspot rather than traditional desktop computers.

We all realized very quickly, at the time of the shift to online learning, that our faculty, staff and students were not necessarily ready to operate remotely/online – outdated devices, poor Wi-Fi and lack mastery of technology to solve the problems that plagued each day. institution. And the reality of an extended period of remote work/schooling has been exacerbated by this technology divide. It’s time for institutions to develop more flexibility and support – and now is the time to discuss and implement a solid strategy to close this glaring technology gap – before the next crisis hits. Otherwise, it will still be “déjà vu”.

Student services must also incorporate online support.

On most of our campuses, student services tend to operate on a traditional 8-5 MF business model. The changing reality of our enrollments – particularly in the area of ​​active adult learners – as well as the continued growth of online learning – necessitate a more widespread presence and availability of support and services. This is true for academic support for students, but also for associated technical support. It probably doesn’t have to be 24/7, but evenings and Saturdays are when most online students are – online. They need to know they can get the help they need, when they need it.

Calling all distance learning leaders: ITC will host the 2022 Distance Education Leadership Academy in Reno, Nevada, July 25-27. It will select up to 20 distance learning leaders to participate in the academy. Apply before May 27.

Karen O. Fielding