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How YC transitioned to fully online classes in about a week

No one reached for the panic button when the Yavapai College staff responsible for transitioning the college from 35 percent to a 100-percent online environment were told to start preparing prior to spring break.

The college’s Teaching and E-Learning Department reached out to faculty during the break to give them a heads up about potential COVID-19 pandemic decisions and make them aware of existing resources available to convert in-person courses to virtual classrooms.

Fortunately, the vast majority of YC classes already were using Canvas, the college’s learning management system, said Stacey Hilton, YC dean of the office of instructional support. “Whether it was an online class or not, every single class we offer has a course shell on Canvas.” Additionally, TeLS and YC’s information technology team have been proactive for many years keeping the college’s technology up to date and training faculty and staff to use it. “That familiarity with the technology has been key,” she said.

On Friday, March 13th, TeLS Manager Thatcher Bohrman and his staff of three communicated to YC faculty they had the tools and were ready to help faculty, staff and students teach, work and study online. The following week, with concerted help from IT personnel, TeLS staff conducted multiple group and one-one-one trainings. By Monday March 23, 400 classes and their corresponding 5,000 students had made the switch.

“I feel more in mission than I ever have before,” Bohrman said of the herculean effort on the part of so many. “It’s been a really incredible time and we’re fortunate to be where we are,” he said, noting that he is aware of universities that are experiencing more difficult transitions to fully online learning. “We are as prepared as any college out there,” he said.

Exceptions to online coursework are emergency services (EMT and Paramedic) and law-enforcement academy classes. They were given special dispensation to help the college meet community demand for first responders, Hilton said.

Beth Franco, a YC allied health professor at the Verde Valley campus, said early and consistent communication with her phlebotomy and medical assistant students helped prepare them for online learning. She said she also took advantage of Zoom software trainings that TeLS offered.

Well before the pandemic, Franco said YC has been encouraging instructors to incorporate Zoom and recorded lectures in online classes, so the learning curve wasn’t too steep. She said she is postponing lab requirements for her phlebotomy classes until June.

 Other classes with required lab components, such as ceramics, welding and electronics, are providing video recordings of labs, online simulations or sending supplies and lab kits to their students. “Many instructors are discovering this new creativity in their teaching,” Bohrman said.

Franco embraced the online education transition wholeheartedly, she said, to be able to provide answers for her students and help them succeed in their classes. “To have made it impossible to continue, that would have been heartbreaking. I really like my students. I want them to do well and I care about them.”

Teaching via Zoom is proving comfortable and relaxing for everyone, Franco has found. “We all shared our pets the other day,” she said. “It’s different when you see people in their homes. The way you see them is different and I like that.”

Support for online education at YC is ongoing to ensure quality, engagement and student success. That has kept the TeLS staff “very busy,” Borhman said. “But it hasn’t been the crush that people would expect,” he said, adding, “the spirit of helping each other has been tremendous.”