Perry VanKirk Career Academy starts fall semester
The Perry VanKirk Career Academy campus will look a little different during the fall semester.
A majority of the classes will be offered online while some hands-on lab classes, including welding, will meet face-to-face this fall. DMACC's fall semester kicked off on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
Perry VanKirk Career Academy Director Eddie Diaz said the summer plan worked out well as the campus offered limited courses for various labs like welding. The shortened summer courses started on July 6 and ran through the first week of August.
“It was really a good opportunity for us to test run some of our safety protocols and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out,” Diaz said. “I’m sure things can still come up in the fall that we’re not anticipating, but the safety procedures and masks and social distancing worked well for us.”
He added that at the DMACC level, masks are required for students and staff. Things were moved around in the lab areas to help with social distancing. They also reduced capacity for each class, though Diaz said that will prove a little more challenging for the fall semester.
The fall semester will bring “a little bit more of our normal in that our lab and auto and those classes that require hands-on will be at our center,” Diaz said, while the vast majority of the classes will stay online.
COVID-19 forced the Perry campus to move its classes online after spring break in March.
The transition to online classes was a fairly smooth one, Diaz said, even with the short turnaround following spring break. He added that part of the reason it was a smooth transition was because DMACC has been doing online classes for over a decade and online training is included with the hiring process.
“It’s a challenging period to be an instructor or teacher,” Diaz said. “It’s not the ideal situation but overall I think they were pretty receptive (to the move online).
He anticipates the fall semester to run even smoother as staff members have had more time to develop online learning plans.
Online classes will be offered in a variety of ways during the fall semester. Some classes will be following the asynchronous model, where students get on at various times to meet their schedules.
“Asynchronous online courses have been a staple for quite some time where an instructor creates content, posts, discussions, maybe lectures online that the students access at their convenience, turn in assignments and get feedback provided. That’s been around at DMACC for over 10 years,” Diaz said.
One of the new options the Perry campus will be offering online is web blended learning.
“Essentially there is a component where they do a little bit of the asynchronous, but the other part is where they meet at specific times on our learning system, which is called Blackboard. And the students can interact with the instructor,” Diaz said.
He added that they tested another new online learning option over the summer. The class is more synchronous, he said, where students get on the system at specific times and days of the week with the instructor.
“The reason for that is we realized that some students need schedules, some students need more support to be successful online. The synchronous model is our way of trying to address that,” Diaz said.
He is looking forward to the fall semester starting and getting some students back on campus for the hands-on lab classes.
“I was really looking forward to being around students a lot. Summer’s are usually pretty lonely so it’s going to be hard not to be able to get back to face-to-face classes 100 percent,” Diaz said. “If something tremendous happens within the semester, we could go back to face-to-face (classes) pretty easily. We’re hopeful by the spring that we’re able to move forward with more of our normal life.”