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Computers & cell phones replace classrooms

Special to Wesson News

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down traditional classroom instruction at Co-Lin, but students in the college's academic and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have continued to pursue their studies, shifting almost seamlessly from buildings on Co-Lin's campuses to computers and cell phones in their homes, and even in their vehicles, to continue learning on the internet.

Nearly 100 percent of CoLin students who were enrolled in traditional classroom courses before they were shut down by COVID-19 are now taking them online, Stephanie Duguid, the college's Dean of Academic Instruction, and Brent Duguid, Dean of Career and Technical Education, report.

Instructors made contact with their students via email, telephone and text after the college announced its COVID-19 emergency plan, and kept most of them on board for online classes.

"We were uniquely prepared to make the shift," says Stephanie Duguid. "Since 2012, Co-Lin has used Canvas, a web-based mobile-friendly learning management system, to deliver an expanding number of online courses to students and encourage its classroom instructors to prepare online versions of their courses. So both our students and teachers were largely familiar with the technology."

Using Canvas, instructors lecture students online and embed homework, laboratory project assignments, videos and other supplementary materials, interactive games and tests and quizzes that are accessible to students. They conduct classes in their homes on personal computers and even on their cell phones at Co-Lin parking lots, which are WIFI hot spots.

Students access the Canvas web site on their lap tops, tablets, home computers or cell phones and enter their user names and passwords to attend their online courses. On Canvas, they submit completed homework and other assignments and take their tests. Art students can even upload videos of their works, and music students can upload audio files to their instructors.

For courses that require more interchange between teachers and students, Zoom, a web-based video conferencing application, is meeting the need for "virtual synchronous," or same time interaction, Stephanie Duguid says. Classes that utilize Zoom include those that require questions and answer, give and-take discussions among students and between students and teachers. The interaction is especially important for courses like cosmetology, engineering, economics, history and physical science classes.

Rural students with limited access to internet services are going on Canvas and Zoom at WIFI hot spots in Co-Lin parking lots and off campus at varied business and government locations throughout the area. C-Spire in Brookhaven recently announced it was making its parking lot a hot spot.

Academic and CTE courses alike at Co-Lin have been able to apply the internet technologies for the classroom component of learning, but hands-on laboratory work required in HVAC and welding courses, for example, is a challenge, says Brent Duguid. "Until the shelter-in-place order, we conducted the labs with small groups of less than ten participants," he says. "We're hoping freshmen can catch up on lab requirements when restrictions are lifted, and we're looking to our coop business partners to provide on-the-job lab experiences for our sophomores."

"We're seeking to meet student needs," summarizes Stephanie Duguid. "We were well prepared, transitioned well and are now getting ready for the summer semester with online registration. The success of our COVID-19 online program confirms what we've been doing for almost a decade with digital technology."


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