As a small, nimble, proprietary college, we've been able to stay ahead of the curve and ease the transition to virtual teaching, support, and administration for our students, staff, and faculty so far.
In these challenging times, it's hard not to be proud of our students, staff, and faculty here at The College of Westchester.
As soon as things started go sideways early the week of March 2nd, President Del Balzo and our management team stepped up and started communicating right away. My amazing, dedicated IT staff was all over it. We had already been enabling remote access to desktops for years along with various other measures intended to support business continuity while enhancing ongoing efficiencies. When we transitioned to a cloud based phone system last year, we made a point of getting familiar with their “Mobility” solution, which would enable our users to use their smart phones much like the phones on their desks. This turned out to be a home run as we implemented it over the last week.
We had done a lot of emergency prep and it was paying off. But who would have thought it would be a pandemic we were preparing for?
Normally in BC/DR (Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery) planning, you balance risk versus likelihood of different scenarios. Fire, power outage, earthquake, severe weather, etc., are pretty high on the list of real things that happen and can create an emergency situation. But a pandemic? Honestly, that's way down on the list of possibilities. But here we are.
Putting Plans Into Action
We started teaching remotely last Friday, and staff started working from home on Tuesday. I have a consultant working for me who works with numerous higher education institutions and he mentioned that all of the other schools he is working with are scrambling and that we are way ahead of the curve (like “night and day” compared to most of these other schools). I am so grateful for the diligence and skills of the people who work for me.
Since we've moved online, some of our students have mentioned that they miss learning from their instructors face to face, but most have been pretty positive about the transition.
One instructor shared the following:
“I held all four of my classes online using Zoom. It was wonderful. I had 90% attendance in every class. This week we did poetry and read the poems to each other while analyzing them. I shared my screen, so it felt like we were in a real classroom just not physically together. The students were so grateful and happy. Everyone participated and one student wrote to me:
I had fun in today's class. Thank you for keeping up with us. I hope to see you soon
Some other feedback from faculty: “for the most part participation has been very good in my classes. Maybe even better than in person! They are certainly more talkative,” and, “I have to tell you how impressed I am with the college out reach. Everything has been clear and transparent! Amazing job.”
A Place to Express Concerns, Questions, Positive Thoughts
Thanks to our college mobile phone app, students also have the opportunity to express concerns, observations, etc., on our digital “Campus Wall”, which is a powerful thing in times like these. Administrators pay attention to these postings and follow up with students as needed. There are consistently more positive comments and postings than negative ones, even in these last few weeks. Having a place for students to openly express concerns and ask questions is a great thing (as long as we provide useful feedback and reach out when needed).
I hope everyone is staying well and managing well enough through these difficult weeks! I also hope everyone's cooperative efforts and hard work will help to keep things working well going forward. It's probably going to get tougher before it gets better but if we just hang in there and work together, hopefully we'll come out the other side with valuable lessons learned and a new outlook.