The move to online classes has been a relatively smooth one for the Perry VanKirk Career Academy.
“Our staff really worked tremendously to transition,” said Eddie Diaz, VanKirk Career Academy Director.
The Perry campus was on spring break when COVID-19 concerns started ramping up. Diaz said DMACC extended spring break by a week to allow staff members to move the vast majority of classes online. Classes went online on March 30 and will continue through the end of the spring term on May 7.
“We were fortunate that we had a really robust platform online already in place that we had been using for quite some time,” Diaz said of Blackboard.
He added that it helped as quite a few courses were already delivered online and the resources were already developed.
Staff members still worked to move in-person classes to a strictly online format within a week.
“I feel really good about how our staff have responded. They took the challenge,” Diaz said.
Adjunct Instructor Mindy Farmer, who teaches Composition II and Intro to Literature this semester, said it helped that she had partially taught one of the classes online at another campus. She added that the timing worked out as well with spring break.
“I was really grateful that if we had to make a transition suddenly like this that it was at this point in the semester. Because I know my students and they know me and we have a routine together,” Farmer said.
She was also familiar with Blackboard and used it to have students submit work before the transition online. Though the move to online learning wasn’t without its challenges.
“You prepare an in-person class using different strategies than you might online and exercises. You have to use your imagination as a teacher to see how you’re going to get that information to your students in a different way,” Farmer said.
Tools like Zoom allow Farmer to virtually meet with her students to discuss the play they are reading, “The Odd Couple.” The library also helped find an audiobook that the students could access to listen to the play acted out.
Luke South, a senior at Panorama High School, said the transition to online learning was a fairly easy one for him. Two of his four classes this semester were already offered online. The other two transitioned smoothly following spring break.
“Personally, I’ve really enjoyed it. I have a lot of time to focus on my classes now and get them done at a high level,” he said.
Diaz added that students are encouraged to reach out to their instructors if they have questions. They should also continue to watch their email accounts and Blackboard for updates.
“The message we keep trying to tell students is we’re going to work with them and we’re going to be flexible. We want to meet them halfway,” Diaz said.
A press release from DMACC said COVID-19 will continue to impact the summer term, which starts on May 26. All classes prior to July 1 will be offered in an online format.
“Whatever we’ve learned from this situation we carry forward to make future online delivery more engaging and more challenging as needed,” Diaz said. “We’re always looking to improve so we’re going to find this as a learning opportunity.”