By Dillon Neibel
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic life has changed quite drastically, and while that change has impacted some more than others, it has undoubtedly impacted Lewis and Clark Community College (L&C).
With the conversion to online taking place over a two week period and the state of Illinois going under lockdown, faculty, administration, staff and students all had to adjust accordingly and swiftly. So, when asked for her impression of how faculty and administration have dealt with these adjustments, L&C’s Interim President Lori Artis had this to say.
“I can’t say enough with how collaborative everyone has been. Our faculty had just two weeks to completely shift everything they were doing into an online format. They’ve had to think critically and creatively with how to handle not just instruction, but skill development and assessment – things that are challenging in an online environment. Our administration has been listening to the concerns of students and faculty, and working together to respond to their needs. For example, we purchased Zoom to provide a secondary online instruction platform that ensures privacy for our students and faculty. We also created a Wifi parking lot for those with internet connectivity concerns, and we are actively trying to connect students with resources to help them stay enrolled and successful. I can’t say enough about the collaboration that takes place daily – and it’s all been in support of our students,” said Artis.
Vocal Performance Major Tyler Reynolds, who is in his final semester here at L&C and is likely to transfer to CU Denver, shared his thoughts on the adjustments to online classes.
“The adjustment has been really hard. Some of my teachers never respond to my emails and leave me completely in the dark. Overall I’m just saddened by what my last semester at LC has become,” said Reynolds.
Artis offered some perspective as to how it has been for instructors to make this conversion to online.
“All of our faculty are being challenged in new ways, but everything I have been told from the deans and the Vice President of Academic Affairs is that our faculty have rolled up their sleeves and are doing everything they can to work with students in this new environment. Obviously there are areas that are just simply impossible to teach entirely online, such as nursing skills, dental skills, welding, and automotive to name a few. Those faculty are working with students on a plan to help them complete these hands-on skills once the shutdown is over. We are planning to work with each student who is willing to help them complete as planned,” said Artis.
Reynolds expanded on his difficulties of completing his schooling in the face of the pandemic.
“Mentally it’s really hard to do school during this. It’s hard to find motivation to finish my classes,” said Reynolds.
For students who feel like they can relate to Reynolds difficulties with completing their work, Artis has some words of encouragement.
“We recognize that most students did not sign up to take courses in an online environment. We are doing our best to encourage and support our students ongoing. I encourage students to work with their faculty members closely. Stay in constant contact. Ask questions and share concerns. Our number one goal is to not just provide academic instruction, but provide quality academic instruction. We also encourage our students to contact their advisor, or work with one of our counselors in Student Development and Counseling if they are struggling either with coursework or with mental health issues. We are providing all of our student services in a virtual format. We want students to know we are available and we are here to help them during these changing times,” said Artis.
One begs the question, what can be learned by this experience? Artis offers her insight as follows.
“This has definitely been a learning experience for everyone – administrators, faculty, and students. Our goal when this crisis has passed is to reflect – what did we do well, where do we have room for improvement, what are our strengths, what are our weaknesses. This is a really challenging time for everyone, but when we are pushed outside our comfort zones, this is where growth and development happen. We are all outside our comfort zones these days, so I know we will all grow from this experience. It will make us all stronger than we were before,” said Artis.
Also, what might have been taken for granted before the stay at home order? Reynolds shares his input.
“The main thing I took for granted was all the distractions I had that helped me get through each day. It’s so easy to get lost in my own mind during all of this,” said Reyolds.
Another gnawing question one might have to ask, is what can be expected or is being considered to change for L&C once the cloud has been lifted? Once again Artis presents her thoughts on the matter.
“Once the stay-at-home order has been lifted, the college will make a local assessment of who should return to campus. Our first priority will be to work with those students who were not able to complete their learning in an online environment. As you can imagine there are certain courses in the career and technical education arena that require hands-on learning and assessments. Getting those students and faculty back on campus in a safe way will be our first priority,” said Artis.
Reynolds has his own thoughts for life after the order is lifted.
“I just am hoping that the lockdown is lifted before I leave the Godfrey area. If it is, I want to be able to make a few more memories before I go,” said Reynolds.
Finally, when asked if some sort of social event/celebration can be expected, possibly even with a collaboration with the village of Godfrey? Artis had this to say.
“This is a great idea. As you know, it’s our 50th anniversary, and we are really hoping to continue the planning for our Homecoming Celebration we were planning for September. I think all of us will have a knee-jerk reaction when the order is lifted to want to congregate. I think we need to be careful and think about how we might be able to socialize, without going all out right away. We want everyone safe. I know student activities will be anxious to start planning events for our students again. They are also working on some online ways to engage students, so stay tuned to your Lewis and Clark email accounts for some announcements there,” said Artis.