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First week of Ellsworth’s online and Zoom classes sees many successes

When Ellsworth Community College students went home for spring break the first weekend in March, everyone expected they would return campus and start up classes a week later; business as usual.  However, due to the rapidly evolving global pandemic Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, business was anything but usual.

ECC announced on March 13 that classes would be cancelled for the Monday and Tuesday directly following break.  This was intended to allow administration some time to assess the situation and make informed decisions about classes for the rest of the semester.

While classes originally set up to be taught online resumed on March 18, face-to-face classes didn’t begin again until Monday, March 23 … but in an entirely new format.  The change and quick turnaround left some faculty members who had only taught classes in a physical classroom feeling anxious, but not Rebecca Peterson, ECC English and Communications.  “I have a background in instructional technology so I wasn’t intimidated by the mandate to move classes online, but even so, I have to say that things have gone better than I expected – students are still engaging and learning, Coronavirus or no!”

This seems to be the case overall for faculty across the district.  In the near-daily district Zoom updates, IVCCD Chancellor Dr. Kristie Fisher noted an abundance of feedback from many faculty members who had an overwhelmingly successful first few days.  Most students were in classes and engaged.

There have been a few hurdles to overcome.  Classes are talking place in Central Daylight Time, but some students have gone home to other time zones.  Additionally, there are some students who do not have reliable access to a computer or internet.  Instructors are working hard to accommodate those students and get them their coursework.

These Zoom class times don’t just serve as an avenue for learning; students also take full advantage of the time to catch up and check in on each other.  “They’re asking each other about their well-being, whether they’ve been able to return home, how classes are going, etc., just as they would in a face-to-face class. That goes for me, too. It was wonderful to see all of my students again after a two-week break!” says Petersen of her Zoom classes.

Nursing faculty member Charisse Off reported a similar experience.  “I was a bit nervous at first, just making sure everyone understood how class was going to run moving forward.  Luckily the associate degree nursing program is blended, so much of the content is already online.  I did a Zoom test run to make sure students understood how to join the class.”

Health occupations classes have a unique challenge of meeting clinical requirements.  Faculty members have had to get creative to supplement these hours, but from incorporating virtual simulations to utilizing case studies, instructors are doing everything they can so students do not miss out.  “We are all in this together,” Off says, “Our nursing faculty on both campuses work closely with one another so we’re able to bounce ideas to ensure our students are meeting course and program objectives.”

Students also had to adjust to the distance learning format.  “Adapting has been pretty easy, and our instructors are working tirelessly so we, as nursing students, are able to meet clinical requirements,” reflected Telyn Rainey, a student in the associate’s degree in nursing program.  Like many, Rainey is trying to focus on the positives of the situation, like spending time with family, but is more than ready to return to a face-to-face world. “My class is reaching the end of our ECC journey, and I’m hoping to get to celebrate all of our accomplishments together.”

While business might not be quite back to usual at Ellsworth Community College, students are still learning, and that is what it is all about.

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