Adapting to Serve Students Through Every Challenge

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

How do you support nearly 5,000 students with essential services when campuses are closed to in-person activities? Resourcefulness and technology.

Virtual Services & Community

The way students are getting support may have changed, but SPSCC’s core objective—helping students be successful—prevails as strong as ever. From academic services like advising and tutoring to student services such as enrollment and financial aid, SPSCC staff put students first by moving nearly every core college function online in a matter of days.

Within hours of the governor’s "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order, new students were completing 100% of their steps to enroll online, future students were attending a virtual admissions information session, and Running Start students were texting in photos of their verification forms for SPSCC staff to process.

The video conferencing platform Zoom became a critical technology piece of serving students virtually.

The college’s IT team quickly assigned Zoom licenses to faculty and departments, and virtual waiting rooms were created with links to services from the SPSCC website.

Counseling Services, an especially important resource during times of heightened anxiety, adapted very quickly. SPSCC counselors Sally Sharbaugh and Ross Artwohl facilitate a COVID-19 support group via Zoom, are overseeing virtual meetings of the Active Minds student club, and are holding counseling appointments for students on Zoom.

“We’ve had the opportunity to reach more students than we might have in our face-to-face work,” Sharbaugh said.

Not all services are related to academic student supports. Creativity is something people can bond over, but since in-person gatherings aren’t a possibility, instruction and classroom support technician Nicole Gugliotti decided to form a virtual group that celebrates the arts. The SPSCC Creative “Something” is a weekly online meeting that invites area artists to share their process, artwork, and home studios, and provides an opportunity for deeper connection.

“I think this is ultimately going to be an incredible archive of our regional artists, as well as a rich resource for our students: past, present, and future,” said Gugliotti.

Innovation in Teaching

Weeks before SPSCC started offering student services remotely, Instruction had to make the move to online formats. After shifting over 300 classes to virtual and online formats, the college extended enrollment deadlines and gave students time to re-enroll in classes that would work best for them.

infographic statistics

“I consider this a team effort, and we make a great team,” said Olivia Youngblood, SPSCC academic records specialist. Youngblood played a critical role between the enrollment and instruction teams by monitoring and placing waitlisted students into new sections of online courses as they were added. “I just do it for the students, to be an advocate and to ensure their enrollment needs are taken care of and their voices are heard.”

Upwards of 80% of SPSCC faculty had experience teaching online before COVID, making the move to remote learning a quicker process for most classes. But no matter the course, the rapid shift shows the flexibility of SPSCC faculty and their commitment to students.

“One silver lining in all of this is the innovation we’ve seen come from faculty as they work to ensure student learning outcomes are met,” said Kari Thierer, curriculum designer in the Center for Teaching and Online Learning (CTOL). Thierer and the CTOL team provided extra trainings to both faculty and students during the transition, such as using Zoom and Canvas.

Figuring out how to do hands-on work, like science labs, is an area where faculty used ingenuity to recreate an in-person experience. Biology professor Lynette Rushton’s in-person plant specimen labs turned into a video of her experimenting with plants from her own garden. While the process of the lab might look different, the delivery achieves the desired student learning outcome.

“As we go forward, it’s going to make us more creative, but it’s been quite a challenge,” Rushton said.

It’s not enough to be innovative with instruction. Having the right technology is a key to being successful in this transition. The SPSCC IT department has worked closely with faculty to provide over 200 devices like webcams, laptops, and wearable camera devices so they can replicate classroom experiences for remote learning.

“This has really shown me the commitment the college has to student success,” said Ryan Hanscom, IT Client Services Director at SPSCC.

Stay in School & Engage

Although 69% of SPSCC students had taken at least one class online before COVID, students also had to navigate the shift to fully virtual and online learning, all while managing the stress of a public health crisis, caring for their families, facing layoffs, and missing their loved ones.

“I’m so proud of the SPSCC community to switch so quickly,” said SPSCC student body president AJ Edwards. “We’re still going to do everything in our power to make sure this works for everyone.”

photo of student body president AJ Edwards

Running Start student Jake Olson is navigating his first full quarter of online classes, including pre-calculus II, where his professor is using social media to ensure coursework is clear.

“My professor posts videos on YouTube that clearly explain each step and process in whatever trigonometric concepts we are working with, and it has really helped me with understanding the concepts,” said Olson.

Olson is one of nearly 2,000 high school students who are earning college credit online while still enrolled in high school. Since the closure of K-12 schools, Running Start enrollment went up nearly 10% for Spring Quarter and SPSCC now serves 1,927 students through the Running Start and College in the High School dual credit programs.

Another big part of the college experience is developing their personal interests, socializing, and getting involved in student clubs. Creating student events and activities that are engaging, fun, and remain virtual, is something that the Campus Activities Board (CAB) has adapted to since campus closed.

“It’s been a challenge, but definitely a time of innovation,” said Crystal Hearitage, a student event coordinator on the CAB. “What I’m trying to do right now is create events that students can still engage with online.” Teams across campus joined forces during the first few weeks of Spring Quarter to offer virtual open houses and event schedules that include eSports, music performances, and even an online reptile show.

Student-athletes also have another layer of challenge with this pandemic. “I’m trying to stay fit by going for runs and doing home workouts,” said Ben Janssan, Men's Basketball player, and part of the student social media team.

SPSCC Clipper Athletics continues to sign letters of intent for the 2020-21 season and is looking forward to the opening of the new Health & Wellness Center when campus re-opens and construction is completed.

SPSCC faculty member Heather De Munn conducting class via Zoom
The video conferencing platform Zoom became a critical technology piece of serving students virtually. Faculty like Heather De Munn conduct class using technology like the Zoom platform.