Wor-Wic to offer a mix of in-class, remote learning

Covid-19 is forcing major changes at Wor-Wic Community College, including $1.2 million in budget cuts as well as how it offers classes when it reopens for the fall semester.

Campus officials also have no idea yet of how the coronavirus may affect fall enrollment.

“It’ll keep you up at night,” said Wor-Wic President Dr. Ray Hoy.

So far, the enrollment on campus is up 23 percent, but registration is down 27 percent. Students and their families may be waiting to find out how classes will be offered before registering. Others may be in difficult economic circumstances because of job losses during the pandemic.

Hoy said he also is prepared for some students at four-year colleges who decide to stay closer to home for a semester or two.

As a result, Hoy said he is taking a conservative approach to the fall semester and waiting until the last possible moment to make some decisions.

“We’re just not sure about this,” he said.

This week, Wor-Wic announced it will offer on-campus classes, virtual learning and a combination of the two when classes resume. The campus already had an accredited online program before the coronavirus forced the community college to close in March, so many faculty members were able to switch over easily and also help others, Hoy said.

This fall, the campus will stream as many courses as possible, but in some programs such as physical therapy students will need to attend in person wearing full personal protection equipment.

Other students will need to be on campus at least part of the time because they lack technology or reliable internet access.

Hoy said the pandemic has changed most things on campus, and everyone on staff has adapted.

“We’re prepared to deal with students, but the question is, are they prepared for us,” he said.

In addition to ongoing uncertainties about enrollment as well as how to offer classes, Wor-Wic was among 15 community colleges in Maryland that had their budgets cut last week by the Board of Public Works as part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s request to slash $413 million from the state budget.

The 15 percent cut at Wor-Wic – nearly $1.2 million – resulted in the freezing of 12 vacant positions, the furlough of 24 employees through Aug. 24, the closing of the Child Care Center and reductions in all departments, Hoy said.

And the Covid-19 pandemic could have longer-term effects on the state budget beyond the current fiscal year.

“This isn’t just a fall semester issue,” he said.

Reopening plan

This week, Wor-Wic officials announced how they plan to reopen the campus safely, while still providing students with an education.

“After surveying our students to learn more about their needs during this time, we found a fairly balanced split between those wanting classes on campus with social distancing, and those wanting classes online, and those who prefer hybrid or virtual classes,” said Hoy in a video of Wor-Wic’s fall 2020 reopening plan

Both current credit students and applicants who haven’t registered yet were included in the survey. Thirty-eight percent said they want classes on campus, 32 percent said they want online classes and the remaining 30 percent indicated that they would prefer hybrid or virtual options.

The end result of this academic planning was the development of six different credit class formats, including on-campus, online, virtual and three different types of hybrid models:

  • On Campus — Students and instructors meet on campus on set days and times. Instruction could be livestreamed half of the time in order to meet social distancing requirements.
  • Online — Students complete their coursework online anytime, but assignments have specific deadlines.
  • Virtual — Students and instructors meet in different locations via video conferencing software on set days and times.
  • Hybrid (On Campus/Online) — Students meet with instructors on campus on set days and times and complete the other half of their coursework online anytime.
  • Hybrid (On Campus/Virtual) — Students and instructors meet on campus on set days and times and in different locations via video conferencing software on other set days and times.
  • Hybrid (Virtual/Online) — Students and instructors meet on set days and times in different locations via video conferencing software for half the time, while the other half of the course work can be completed by students online anytime.

As part of the planning for a safe return to campus, the college has instituted new procedures for all students, employees and visitors to adhere to while they are on campus. Before being allowed to park their cars or enter any buildings, everyone will be greeted at a checkpoint manned by public safety staff who will take temperatures, ensure the satisfactory completion of a health self-assessment tool and make sure they have a face covering to wear.

Students are being encouraged to arrive early for classes to allow adequate time to get through screening, get parked and get to class.

All classrooms, labs and resource centers are being set up for physical distancing. There will be 6 feet between students and between students and instructors in a typical classroom and there will be fewer students in the classroom than usual.

In those courses where students have to physically interact with instructors and/or other students (such as lab work and clinical practice), personal protective equipment will be supplied and will be required to be used. 

Students will be responsible for cleaning their desks and workspaces with college-provided supplies when entering and leaving class.

To ensure a positive and safe experience on campus, the facilities department will be supplementing the disinfecting that students will be doing when they enter and leave their classrooms. High-touch surfaces will be disinfected regularly with a cleaning agent that kills the Coronavirus on contact. Disinfecting machines and handheld devices will be used to disinfect classrooms, office spaces and common areas three times per week.

Building attendants will continue to clean and disinfect those areas as well as address high-touch surfaces as part of their daily and nightly routines. Hand sanitizing stations and disinfectant wipes can be found in classrooms and hallways all over campus.

Some student services will be handled remotely by employees who will continue to telecommute. However, just like with the variety of teaching options that will be available, services – career exploration, financial aid, enrollment coaching and academic advising — can be accessed in person or online. Students can even receive help with some of these steps over the phone.

Employees will work with students however they feel most comfortable.

Appointments are encouraged for either in-person or virtual visits as soon as possible. The earlier students get registered, the better the chances are that they will get their desired classes in the preferred format on the days and times that best meet their needs.

To support student success, the college will continue offering in-person tutoring on campus, as well as online tutoring, known as Brainfuse, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Electronic library materials are also available 24/7 and on set days and times in the resource centers on campus. Students who need special assistance due to a disability can meet with a counselor to discuss any accommodations needed for them to be successful.

In this changing environment, plans remain fluid and the college will make adjustments as needed to remain compliant with best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maryland Department of Health and local health departments.

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