Innovation, long-time focus on distance learning allow WCC to flourish during crisis

October 21, 2020 WCC

Student in ceramics lab

Ceramics lab assistant Colleen Soutar works with a student. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hands-on learning classes are being conducted in a mixed mode format this fall — lectures online and labs on campus — with strict safety protocols in place that include health screenings, frequent handwashing, station sanitation and mask wearing. Any close interaction, as shown above, is limited to what is necessary for instruction.

As colleges and universities across the state and country deal with the ramifications of coronavirus outbreaks mid-semester, Washtenaw Community College is focused on continuing the educational plan created after President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca made the health-informed decision to conduct most classes virtually this fall.

“There are two primary reasons why the decision to err on the side of safety was easier for me to make,” Bellanca said. “One is we have made online education a focus since 2013, so we were fully prepared to remain virtual. The other is I was confident our team would be innovative and ensure all student services were available virtually and student engagement would be at the highest possible level.

“They’ve proved me right. We’ve got this.”

The college’s student data shows that transitioning to primarily online delivery of classes during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a successful one.

After transitioning to 100% online classes in March, the WCC student success rate for Winter 2020 classes was 75.6%, significantly higher than the 69% national average revealed in a National Community College Benchmark Study.

Furthermore, the 2020 Higher Learning Commission Student Opinion Survey administered to WCC students by the HLC showed an overwhelming approval of the college and its instructors:

  • 86% agreed or strongly agreed faculty provides helpful instruction.
  • 88% agreed or strongly agreed faculty are available when they need them.
  • 91% agreed or strongly agreed faculty are knowledgeable about their subject areas.
  • 90% agreed or strongly agreed they were satisfied with their experience.
  • WCC also transfers more students to the University of Michigan than any other community college, with nearly 70% of WCC students intending to transfer to a four-year institution.

Employment rates of WCC graduates are also high according to survey results. Eighty-three percent of occupational program alumni were employed six months after graduation, as were 80% of graduates of all programs.

WCC graphic design student Daniela Kister has enjoyed her WCC online classes, despite a personal preference to be on-campus. “I must say, I was very impressed with how our instructor and everyone in our group stepped up and rose to the challenge of meeting this new reality,” she said.

WCC student Jalen Craig said he prefers online classes because they give him flexibility in his life. “I can still set up personal times to meet with instructors,” he said. “I chose online learning to create school/life balance.”

To provide options for online learning success for all students, WCC implemented a Virtual Classroom model to provide synchronous learning in some course sections. These classes meet with instructors virtually at set times, just like in-person classes.

Tags: October 2020, On The Record, Online Learning, Student Success, ousearch_News_On The Record