Online education running smoothly at GCC

MONICA PRYTS | Allied NewsGrove City College’s campus is mostly deserted. But classes continue online, which was made easier by a previous robust program of online education as well as giving all incoming students a matching laptop.

GROVE CITY – The Grove City College campus is closed, but there is still a lot of teaching and learning happening.

Online instruction started March 23 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s been an adjustment for everyone, but things seem to be going well.

“They are really trying to make lemonade,” Dr. Christy Crute said of how staff, faculty and students are handling the situation.

Crute is executive director of graduate and online programs and professor of business analytics, and she has been instrumental in making sure that online instruction runs smoothly.

The college has offered some online courses for about 10 years with more courses recently being added. That means that the current setup is not new to everyone, and a lot of the necessary programs and equipment were already in place.

There wasn’t much time for everyone to learn about the move to online instruction. Faculty members were trained to use the Microsoft Teams platform, and the classes are following the schedule that was set for the entire semester.

“We kept all of our class times exactly the same,” Crute said.

The college took into account the students participating in online classes from another time zone, so all lectures are recorded for future viewing.

Some students also might not have reliable internet at home during the scheduled class time, so they can review the lesson at their convenience, she said.

The students and faculty members can see each other during the classes. Some professors are in their GCC office and others are at home, and all GCC students receive the same kind of laptop when they enroll.

“That’s been hugely helpful,” Crute said.

Students have told her that the online instruction is easy to follow, but they miss being on campus and taking part in hands-on things like lab work, clubs and activities.

“I very much miss my students,” said Dr. Constance Nichols, chair of the education department and a professor of education.

She is working out of her home office, using two video cameras and three monitors.

This isn’t the first time she’s done online instruction, but the transition has taken some getting used to.

Her department and students have already been using tools designed for online collaboration, and Samantha Fecich, instructional technologist and assistant professor in the education department, has been very helpful.

“I’m very thankful for that expertise,” Nichols said.

Everyone has been sharing resources, tips and ideas, and she is thankful that she can still interact with her students - she can see them and they can see her during lectures.

Nichols can also put her students into small discussion groups, which she can virtually visit.

She’s also been doing video chats with her students to see how they’re doing; she realizes that completing classes while not on campus is a big adjustment, and they miss being surrounded by their peers.

“College is so much more than just your classes,” she said.

She has faith in the students because she knows they work really hard. She’s also been impressed with her colleagues and other staff members.

“It’s a total campus effort,” she said.

Everything that’s been accomplished at the college in response to COVID-19 is “truly historic,” GCC President Paul J. McNulty said in a news release, adding that he appreciates the can-do spirit of the campus

More than 800 traditional lecture and lab courses are being delivered remotely by 150 faculty members.

It is a challenge to duplicate the classroom experience, but faculty members are ensuring things run smoothly, said Dr. Peter Frank, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

More than 25 years ago, GCC was one of the first colleges to provide every incoming freshman with a laptop loaded with education software.

“This has been the number one reason behind making this transition to online instruction and working remotely so much easier,” said Vice President for Enrollment Services and Registrar Dr. John Inman in the news release.

He helped set up the laptop program in the beginning, and he’s glad to see it has paid off.

Dr. Vincent DiStasi, vice president for information technology and chief information officer, said it was hard to imagine getting every class online in a week, but the challenge was met.

Other parts of GCC are still operating to assist students: Chapel Ministries is using social media to provide spiritual guidance; career services is conducting virtual appointments; the Henry Buhl Library is providing research assistance and access to digital materials; tutoring is available; there are accommodations for students with disabilities taking online classes; and the admissions office continues to attract and engage students using online tools.

“We have seen through this difficult crisis some new ways to pursue the College’s mission,” McNulty said in the news release. “By God’s grace, when this monumental challenge is behind us, I believe we will find that our beloved College is a stronger institution.”

Recommended for you