Academic workplaces across the Dayton region have changed dramatically, and quickly, since schools, colleges and universities closed in March and began teaching students online as part of the state’s battle against the spread of coronavirus.
Kettering Schools moved fast after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered schools to close on March 17, said Superintendent Scott Inskeep. Staff were given training in remote learning, 3,000 Chromebooks were re-purposed and given to elementary students and 300 Wi-Fi hot spots were purchased for families that did not have internet access. Teachers are instructing students online, he said, and holding Google Meet and Zoom sessions with smaller groups of students for more specialized lessons.
“We did it. It’s not just us. I know so many school districts in Montgomery County are doing some amazingly creative and constructive things,” Inskeep said. “I think it’s going to cause us to have to look at things differently. Do I believe that it’s going to change instruction across the board? I don’t know yet. I don’t think (a few) weeks into something I’m ready to say it’s going to change the way we do business.”
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Sinclair Community College converted coursework to be online and will offer only online-courses at least through the the first half of summer term, switching to in-person classes if it’s safe later in the summer, said Kathleen Cleary, interim provost and senior vice president.
“In some cases we have expanded our expectations of what is possible to do online in a high-quality environment,” Cleary said.
She said some courses, such as automotive or nursing programs, must have an in-person component because there is no way to adequately teach some things — like how to remove a transmission or how to take blood — without giving students the opportunity to do it themselves. The college partnered with Wright State University to get laptops to students who didn’t have them.
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Sinclair already had a robust virtual learning division and about 400 faculty members teaching online. They became mentors so that the college’s approximately 350 full-time and more than 800 part-time faculty could learn to teach the traditional online courses where students access the course work on their own schedule and remote learning where classes are held in real-time on Zoom or other teleconferencing platforms.
Colleges and universities across the region are adapting how they teach and how they engage with students, said retired Air Force Col. Cassie Barlow, now president of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education. And she said they are looking at how to continue to partner with the business community, which provides experiential learning such as internships.
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“We are all anxious for a vaccine for sure but what are we going to do until then?” Barlow said. “I think the most important things that we’ve got to think about are creativity and resolve. We’ve got to have resolve to stick with this and think about higher education and how we learn in better ways.”
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