Our Spirit of Resilience and Collaboration

KWC during the pandemic

The transition to remote learning in mid-Mar 2020 was painful for everyone. Very few of the faculty were trained in how to teach remotely or had even considered teaching in that manner. Likewise, our students were not prepared to have the teaching-learning enterprise shift more responsibility for learning to them.

Our faculty are dedicated to our students and helping them to succeed.  They quickly galvanized the resources we had available to help them transition spring classes from face-to-face to remote instruction. The faculty who teach in our online programs as well the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning (CETL – Dr. Christine Salmon), the associate dean and director of online education (Dr. Rebecca Francis) and the learning management coordinator (Savannah Travis) all stepped up and offered helpful tips and encouragement, which enabled the faculty and students to complete the semester remotely. 

We all recognized the need to be well prepared for what might happen in fall 2020 if we were remote. In preparation for our fall hybrid model, Drs. Salmon and Francis developed a five-week course for faculty to enable them to learn how to be effective and engaging in the virtual environment. Fifty faculty took this course, which started shortly after commencement.  The work and time required to create and deliver an engaging, high-quality experience in a remote environment was monumental. The majority of our faculty prepared four courses for the fall, as we have very few multi-section courses, which meant little time for rest, reflection, and recharging during the summer. During the academic year, our faculty – many who were also managing schooling for their children, caring for parents, dealing with COVID themselves or within their families – their commitment to their profession and to the well-being of our students cannot be recognized enough. Several were teaching entirely remotely, several had students who were entirely remote, and all managed to not only teach their courses but also reached out to make sure our students had help navigating the environment. They provided one-on-one conversations, helping students get resources (food, books, shelter, mental health services, etc.), and offered encouragement and reminders when students were getting behind or not turning in work, etc.

CETL also offered a series of workshops/help sessions on the lightboard, how to record and integrate videos, external publisher online course materials, etc. after the course was finished.  These activities helped faculty design courses that would maximize the capabilities of our Learning Management system (LMS) to help students access course materials, submit work digitally, engage in meaningful course discussions, take exams remotely, etc.  As a result, faculty were well prepared to offer high quality, engaging, remote and hybrid courses in fall 2020.

CETL also prepared a short series for students in how to get the most out of and succeed in hybrid and remote instruction.  All of these were embedded in our LMS.

The dean of student success (Dr. Shane Armstrong) and her staff (Deb Jones – director of career development, Molly Gross – assistant professor of English, Dr. Christina Starkey – assistant professor of math, Tonya Johnson – administrative assistant) worked tirelessly to transition tutoring services to a remote activity.  Supplemental Instructors (SI’s) during fall 2020 met with the classes that were being taught entirely remotely during the fall term to enable students to have a physical connection with support staff.  These SI’s ran study sections and answered questions.  In spring 2021, we resumed some in-person tutoring as well as continued remote tutoring services.

Resilience and collaboration

We are beginning a reflection process with all units of the College to assess the impacts, ‘good, bad and ugly,’ that COVID has had on our students, employees, services, processes and protocols.  My intent for Academic Affairs is use this information, so we can continuously improve and best serve our students going forward. 

We have learned that we are much more resilient than we thought, community is important, as we have missed the physical, in-person interactions that normally take place, and collaboration and helping each other is essential.

Plans for fall 2021

We hope to be back to normal face-to-face classroom experiences for fall 2021, but we are prepared to continue our hybrid model if required. Many institutions offer students the opportunity to take hybrid classes. Some students really enjoy the hybrid model as it fits their needs better than being tied to a classroom. Even if we are back to normal, the faculty’s ability to maximize the features associated with our LMS will allow students additional opportunities to be engaged in course materials beyond the scheduled class time.

NetVUE grant awarded

We received a NetVUE (Network for Undergraduate Vocational Education) ‘Big Read’ grant. Seventeen faculty and staff are reading and discussing “Living Vocationally the Journey of a Called Life,” by P Waddell and C Pinches. 

We have a program development grant pending with them to integrate ‘meaning and purpose’ throughout the curriculum and co-curriculum.  This book may be appropriate for our freshman read.