When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, College of the Rockies – like everyone – had to act quickly to respond to an unprecedented event. In March, our programming very rapidly shifted to online or alternative instruction methods, and, this fall, we embarked on a primarily online semester. Though we have offered online courses and programs for more than 20 years, it’s a new experience to offer most of our instruction and services virtually. As you can imagine, our desire to get it right for our students has caused some sleepless nights.
It all becomes worth it, however, when we receive feedback that lets us know that while our transition isn’t perfect, the effort we’ve put forward to continue to provide an exceptional learning experience for our students is noticed. Jillian Newfield recently gave us such feedback. Through an email, in addition to stating her relief at being able to stay safely at home in her “little bubble”, Jillian wrote:
“Each instructor shows commitment and availability to their students. I have no doubt that each instructor is putting in more time than they would with face-to-face classes. In my science courses, the instructors have found ways to meaningfully conduct labs that are based in the current conditions of pandemic and environmental concerns (i.e. wildfires). By doing this, they are directly linking learning to the student’s current conditions, making the labs and lectures incredibly relevant and meaningful.
It is evident that the instructors have carefully thought about the students. It feels learner-centred. Furthermore, the instructors are using technological platforms to connect with students as well as connecting students with other students in learning groups. The online lectures are activity driven and very engaging. I thought that I would sit back and simply listen to lectures, but the instructors are going beyond passive learning, creating online communities where student-to-student learning is taking place. Although learning how to navigate the various platforms was overwhelming (and continues to be…), I can appreciate how learning these skills are value-added to the education we are receiving.
The instructors have also been mindful of students’ mental health. One instructor invited the College counsellor to a live session to help us gauge levels of anxiety. He provided us with tools to determine what levels of anxiety are useful in our studies but also gave us a reference point for when it starts to hinder our health. We were taken through, step-by-step, how to access and book counsellor appointments online. It all seems very accessible and welcoming.”
We can’t thank Jillian enough for her kind comments. Our priority is to ensure our students continue to get the education they need, while also keeping them – and our employees – healthy and safe. Jillian’s comments reassure us that we’re on the right track and we aim to continue to learn and improve.