Connected by Crisis: LCCC's Shift to Remote Learning
Vibrant. Strong. Resourceful. Human.
Lehigh Carbon Community College faculty used these words to describe the college throughout the unprecedented transition to all-remote learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amidst a global pandemic, LCCC pivoted over spring break, benefitting from shared repositories, distance-education training and a can-do spirit. Faculty, staff and students showed tremendous resolve and strength in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Professor of economics and business management, Robert Oravitz, says, “Even if our legs were flailing under the water, you didn’t see it. People were present. They weren’t hiding behind their computers.”
An Environment of Support, Collaboration and Innovation
“My dedicated, focused and tech-savvy students really helped me through the transition!” says Rachel Plaksa, professor and business coordinator, describing the true sense of community LCCC embraced. She also shares the pride of 40+ honors scholars exploring places like the Vatican, the Smithsonian and Yellowstone (virtually, of course) to fulfill requirements.
“Librarian Elizabeth Erwin was fabulous!” says Plaksa. “She pulled together a list of virtual tours and documentaries. It was pretty cool that this could be completed virtually.”
Craig Koller, dean of health sciences, echoes Plaksa’s testimony. “The challenge was getting our clinical adjuncts, nurses in the field, up and running with our online tools. We had to switch our instruction model,” says Koller. “The full-time faculty stepped up to help the clinical adjuncts understand how to work with our students to deliver the practical knowledge they needed.”
In times of great need, the best ideas are often born. “Thinking ahead, I’m never going back to the old way,” says Plaksa of an advancement for a global business practice course. “Human resources, marketing, sales - are all separate departments in the class, just like in the real world. Previously, students used Google Drive, but by simply restricting file access between departments, we learned we could continue to simulate an important aspect of the real world in this new environment.”
Student services from tutoring to admissions to office hours have also changed, and Plaksa says it is for the best. “This has forced us to deliver services like tutoring whenever and from wherever. It opens up different formats and time frames, even with office hours. I don’t see us going back on this. This is a good thing for our students.”
Yoga instructor Kenya Marsh introduced yoga journals to help students share their emotions and create accountability. She says, “We reviewed the journals in one-on-one talks, and they introduced a different connection, maybe even a stronger one.”
Stronger and More Connected
The emotional load of the pandemic multiplied and magnified issues for a number of students - from working on the front lines of COVID and caring for loved ones to technology gaps and financial instabilities.
On the technology front, LCCC equipped students with the tools like laptops and other resources, and on the personal front, Oravitz and others shared more of their time, extending evenings and weekends to be virtually present, despite the distance.
“Students were being bold and honest on Zoom during an economics class. Saying things like ‘Hey, my parents are laid off and I’m scared!’ I just tried to make myself available.” Oravitz says this is part of the LCCC difference. He’s proud of the college. He says, “LCCC was able to exhibit that we’re a family. That’s the whole idea of a community college.”
As we move into the new normal, life seems anything but normal. As the world slowly reopens, LCCC is leading the way, now offering services on campus by appointment to further our mission of providing access to our students wherever they are, and removing barriers to enrollment and education by a dedicated focus to our students and the community we serve. Any time, anywhere.