Quick thinking and technology helped ease the transition for most instructors
When COVID-19 spread across the U.S. in spring of 2020, it forced almost every adult education program in the country to a remote learning platform. Educators in the state of Nevada describe some of the challenges they faced when this abrupt change happened and how they overcame the problems.
The pandemic did not alter the programs that we use to deliver the bulk of our lessons and content to our students but it did alter the way that we serve our students. Before the pandemic, Adult Ed was already using a rigorous program, Edgenuity, to deliver the bulk of our lessons and course content to our students. This program is on line and can be accessed from anywhere that has a WIFI signal. We were also already using Google Classroom as a communication source, a place in which students could access more course content, and additional support. Google Classroom could also be accessed online. Having already established the use of these online programs before the pandemic allowed for us at Adult Ed to seamlessly provide our students the opportunity to continue their course work from home during the pandemic.
However, the pandemic had a significant impact on how we served our students. Students could no longer come in to see their teachers, counselors or staff in person at school. Our fast acting and innovative administration and technology department established a number of new ways to keep in contact with our students. Using email got us through the first months of the pandemic but we wanted to offer our students a more personal way to communicate with their teachers, counselors, and staff. We started using Google Meet. This allowed for students to virtually "walk in" to their classrooms again. All courses/subjects have their own Google Meet links that allow students to start classes, ask questions, and get direct instruction virtually face-to-face with all of their teachers. We also have an interactive website that leads our students to clear links to all of the services provided by Adult Ed.
One challenge that we have faced during the pandemic is that not all of our students have access to the technology needed to continue their course from home. We have addressed this challenge by establishing a loaning of technology program for the group of our students most in need.
One positive opportunity that was discovered as a result of the changes made because of the pandemic was the influx of students reaching out and restarting their school journey. We have found that many of our students find our new system much more convenient. The use of these technologies allow us to reach more students. Our success continues to grow.
With the pandemic, we lost our face to face interactions with our students. This caused us to lose or reduce our connection we made with our students. We solved that problem by using our registration form that includes a ID picture of our students. Our staff uploads the pictures into IC so our teachers can see our students and recognize them when they join a google meet. Teachers really appreciate this and the positive effect it has on our students when a teacher recognizes them.
We also added a Chat feature on our website. This allows us to interact immediately with our students daily. If a student Chats on the weekend and receives no response, I follow up with the Chat the following work day. The Chat feature also allows us to instantly share a link to our registration form or other resources more accurately than explaining a specific website over the phone.
- Christopher Schutze
One of the main challenges the pandemic presents to students/teacher interaction is communication. Students are not able to ask questions and get direct and immediate answers from their teachers. I think the success of our program is in
the fact that we have been able to tackle that effectively. From the time a student gets to our website for the initial enrolment to the completion of their course, there is constant and detailed communication of the expectations and what it will take to succeed in the program. For example, when a student enrolls in a class, the instructor sends the individual student a welcome letter with instructions on how to get to the online classroom. And it doesn't stop there, the students get a weekly email from their teachers reminding them that the teacher is available to answer their questions if any, and when they do show up online they are given the opportunity to work with an instructor individually.
I think that being able to use the tools at our disposal to communicate and engage with our students from the administrators to the counselors and the teachers is one of the keys to our success.
- Olu Akinyele
The pandemic has clearly impacted students' ability to access our programs and courses, either because they are sick, newly employed, or lack the technological avenues to connect with us. This has caused us to come up with innovative ways to reach out to students. Outreach is KEY to finding and locating current and future students. In response, we've updated our registration process, to include a way students can register via our website, we've also added chat features to our website, so students can reach out any time of day or night. Telephone banks are important as well to connect to students that are struggling with our technology. Live virtual meet sessions have made us available live, to students close to 12 hours a day. They can attend and talk to a live teacher or counselor in a virtual session. We use Google Meet, but you could achieve the same with Zoom, SabaCentra, or other meet platforms. These changes, and more, have taken us to a new level in teaching students, has made them comfortable with our technology, and they are attending at great numbers. For instance, my classroom averages approximately 50 interactions with students a day. We also continue to allow them 24/7 access to a digital learning management system that they can access on their own schedule.
- Joseph Holguin