How Community Colleges Solve Remote Learning Challenges
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S., and it became clear that it would require a massive shift in day-to-day life, higher education responded quickly. Most colleges and universities quickly extended spring breaks, evaluated the options for educational continuity and, ultimately, transitioned the majority of instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester.
Making such a rapid and massive shift wasn’t easy for anyone. For community colleges, however, it was an especially challenging undertaking. Many community college students do not have access to laptops at home, or they might rely on their colleges for Wi-Fi access.
“Community colleges serve the majority of underrepresented students in the United States,” says Martha Parham, senior vice president of public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges. In addition to technology inequities, students may also be balancing coursework with jobs and caregiving responsibilities — an ordeal complicated further by social distancing measures.
Additionally, of the 12 million students served by community colleges, five million are studying in career and technical education programs that are difficult to replicate online, like allied health and nursing, Parham adds.
These schools also play a unique role in their communities.
“Hundreds of our allied health programs have donated PPE and ventilators that they can’t use due to the closure to their local medical facilities,” notes Parham. She’s also seen member colleges converting dormitories into medical facilities and arranging to deliver meals to students.
That community colleges have been able to make this transition on short notice, without the financial endowments enjoyed by many four-year institutions, is a testament to their dedication to a greater mission — including the work done by IT professionals to support faculty instruction and students in learning.