The overnight shift, well it was spring break, but still, was a big surprise for schools all over Westchester no less at its largest college.
But at Westchester County College “the faculty was already ready” before COVID-19 forced it to morph to online learning. Now looking ahead to fall, WCC can take away some new strategies by looking back on the past few months.
Faculty were provided with WCC support during that crucial preparation week to restart their spring classes after the break, said Mark Stollar, the director of Marketing and Communication.
The health crisis also impacted a five-year strategic plan the college had begun, a process that wound up actually moving ahead more quickly than planned.
"The COVID crisis did not change the plan but did speed up the process. This was specifically so regarding distance learning objectives; what was expected to be accomplished in three years was done in three weeks," Stollar said.
Students perhaps were most impacted by having to transition quickly and the college worked to make sure they had online access to academic counseling, tutoring and mental health counselors online, along with their courses. The college also helped with financial assistance and loaner laptops if needed said Stollar.
But some students also experienced practical benefits central to having the flexibility and convenience of online learning. Some had new responsibilities due to the COVID-19 health crisis, such as taking care of sick family members, and child care and added job stressors. Commuting students who use public transportation also got a break. Some travel to and from WCC up to four hours a day, Stollar noted, so “staying home and safe” was a break for those particularly.
The college expects there may be more students and parents interested in community college now "to minimize exposure to infection as a result of traveling to and living in residential facilities at colleges."
The fall plan is to have most courses be taught remotely, while some courses that require access to specialized labs and equipment will meet on-site. "We expect to continue offering both types of experiences as well as combinations (hybrids) after the threat of COVID-19,” Stollar said. He added that for staff, faculty, and students on campus, all safety and health protocols as mandated by the state will be addressed.
Given the social challenges that increased towards the end of the spring semester, WCC offers students a more diverse experience perhaps than other higher education institutions. The School of the Arts offers courses in politics, history and literature that address social injustice and racism/ "We were also the first SUNY campus to earn the designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution," said Stollar.
The demographics among 13,000 full- and part-time credit students and 11,000 continuing education students are 40.6 % Hispanic, 29.2% White, 18.9 % Black, 4% Asian, 2.1% Multiracial and 5.2% Other.
Recently the college hosted a panel, “How Do Race and Law Enforcement Intersect: A Westchester Community College Current Events Conversation" and celebrated Juneteenth.