When Kaskaskia College students attended their last classes before spring break, they had no idea it would be their last time for the rest of the semester.
COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus, has shut down colleges all across the United States. Like many other higher education facilities, Kaskaskia College has begun managing their classes through Blackboard, an educational technology platform, and video chatting services such as Zoom and Skype.
On March 13, students were notified that their classes would convert to online for two weeks. However, due to updates and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health departments, a notice was sent out that the remainder of the spring semester would be carried out virtually. An extended spring break was given so that the faculty and staff could adjust and prepare for this change.
Students such as freshmen Kailey Mueller and Emma Brandmeyer have felt the impact of the coronavirus on their lives at school. “The hardest part was that we never got to say goodbye,” said Brandmeyer, “The last time I was in class was my last and I didn’t even know it.”
These two students, along with many others at Kaskaskia, have had to adjust to online learning as well as balance their education with their home lives.
“It [coronavirus] has made my personal life so much harder because it is not just me at home, it’s everyone,” said Mueller, “It has been really hard to prioritize what needs to be done.”
Brandmeyer said, “Motivation has been my biggest problem. It’s so hard to keep yourself accountable when you’re at home. I’m still trying to find a schedule and routine that keeps me motivated and on top of my work.”
Both Mueller and Brandmeyer stated that their professors and other staff members at Kaskaskia have been very helpful in the process of transitioning online. Faculty and staff at the college have been working hard to keep students updated and to transition them efficiently to virtual learning.
The professors have also had to adjust to working completely from home. Joshua Woods, Associate Professor of English, is just one of the many educators at Kaskaskia College who had to adjust his students and himself to virtual classes. Woods had quite the optimistic outlook on online learning. “We’re actually quite fortunate that we can do such a thing. The essential functions of colleges can be executed perfectly well online. Many other institutions and businesses don’t have that luxury,” he said.
Woods has been doing his best to transition his classes as smoothly as possible. He livestreams and records lectures but also keeps his content simple and accessible for students who struggle to find internet access.
“Students seem to be responding well so far,” said Woods, “In fact, I’m currently seeing a slightly higher rate of work and participation than I did when we were meeting face-to-face.”
While educators such as Woods work from home, essential employees are still allowed to come on campus and are expected to follow safety protocols to prevent the spread of sickness.
According to Dean of Arts and Sciences, Kellie Henegar, Security, the I.T. Director, Vice Presidents, and President are currently allowed on campus. The President’s Cabinet meets remotely at 9:00 a.m. and the group is in constant communication so they can assess new information on the coronavirus and any troubles students and staff may be facing.
“Waiting on guidance has been challenging as things can change day by day or hour by hour,” said Henegar, “We are in close communication to the Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Board of Higher Education, and the Higher Learning Commission, following their expectations, rules, and guidelines.”
Faculty are being asked to report any students that are having technological issues, and the college has a team to reach out and assist students so they can continue with their classes. A full-time Distance-Learning Specialist works during the day, and a part-time staff person works evenings and weekends to assist students as well.
“Being disconnected from your normal routine presents challenges, but I think our staff and faculty have done an excellent job of transitioning and supporting each other,” said Henegar, “We hope that all students understand that the college is here and ready to assist them in any way we can during this transition.”