At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees and students at Elgin Community College adapted quickly to suspend in-person classes and transition to remote learning for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. As the crisis persisted, ECC’s faculty fully developed and expanded online course offerings for the fall semester, ensuring a smoother transition and innovative approach.
“We wanted to be a college that ‘did it right’ and invested in building out quality programming with faculty well-equipped to teach in that modality,” said Peggy Heinrich, EdD, vice president of teaching, learning, and student development.
Over the summer, ECC faculty and staff worked tirelessly to develop more than 230 new online courses that resulted in more than 19,300 hours in training and professional development. The training focused on instructional design, communications tools, implementing group work online, creating interactive content, and online assessment. Additionally, there are more than 90 new online courses in development for the spring 2021 semester.
In addition to taking classes online, limited access to ECC’s campus meant that the Student Services and Development Division had to drastically change how they interacted with and supported students, adapting nearly every service model to have online and virtual options so that students could continue to access everything they needed to be successful.
The student advising, financial aid, student accounts, disability services, and career development areas offered both remote and in-person appointments to ensure students could navigate the college process. The Student Wellness Services Department added telehealth appointments, and the Spartan Food Pantry remained open. The Tutoring Services Department added virtual tutoring and Sunday hours to help students receive support seven days a week.
“ECC is committed to maintaining and enhancing services in the online environment,” said Gregory D. Robinson, PhD, associate vice president of student services and development and dean of students.
To keep students engaged, the college continues to provide virtual activities and events for students. “I always enjoyed attending ECC's events, whether they were hosted by the college or another club,” said ECC student Rachel Miller. “Even though things are now virtual, I still enjoy attending the different events that are hosted by the student life office. I'm an introverted person, but I miss the social time that I would spend with friends between class and at in-person events.”
“I think students are trying to see the environment that we are in as an opportunity rather than a challenge,” said Amybeth Maurer, director of orientation and student life. “It is an opportunity to reflect on their education and prioritize what’s important. This is not to discount the burden COVID-19 placed on finances, health, and education. Still, many students are rising to the challenge and embracing online learning—or better yet, creating new opportunities.”