Resilience: Community Colleges Respond to COVID-19
Fostering Online Campus Communities
Preserving Student Life and Innovative Learning During COVID-19
Community colleges are environments that promote innovative learning solutions and cultivate diverse communities of independent thinkers, problem solvers, and leaders who challenge current systems for the sake of improving them. Our students are successful because we provide holistic support services that address both academic and non-academic barriers to achievement.
Providing a safe, nurturing environment is a hallmark of the community college experience. When COVID-19 threatened to disrupt teaching and learning, Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and Roxbury Community College (RCC) relied on their resident student life, academic innovation, and distance education experts to preserve their sense of campus community and recreate their vast network of student support resources while operating in a virtual environment.
A message from Dr. Andres Oroz, Associate Vice President of Student Life at Roxbury Community College
Creating a Sense of Stability
Our time with our students at RCC goes so quickly, so we want to make the most of each moment with them – from enrollment, all the way to graduation. Over the past few months, our ultimate goal has been to provide our campus community with a bit of normalcy. Using communication programs like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and our dedicated RCC student chat services, we’ve kept our standard channels for student engagement and support wide open.
From the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognized that continued daily contact with students would be crucial to their success. In addition to making sure our students retain access to tutoring, ESL support, accessibility services, advising hours, and technology assistance, we want them to know that all RCC faculty and staff are still available for extra support as well. At RCC, our students can schedule “face-to-face” appointments with academic support staff with just a few simple clicks on our campus website. We are here to listen and respond to their concerns, and to help them stay connected to their courses, to their community, and to each other.
We’re finding creative ways to have fun as a community as well. From online trivia sessions to virtual scavenger hunts, we are still making the time to have fun and enjoy interacting with each other, even while we’re apart. Our RCC student government and many other student-lead committees are also utilizing these virtual meeting spaces to connect with each other as often as possible and to keep students involved in important campus matters. In all ways big and small, our RCC community has come together to stay connected and to continue thriving in these unprecedented times.
A message from Dr. Danielle Leek, Director of Academic Innovation and Distance Education at Bunker Hill Community College
Innovative Approaches to Engagement
Perhaps the most difficult reality our students at BHCC have adjusted to is the physical separation from their campuses, instructors, and classmates. Our students are part of a close-knit community that thrives on working together. This genuine presence and camaraderie are fundamental aspects of engaging communities, and have proven to be conducive to students’ overall success. Adapting to a remote learning model has meant using all of our technological resources to replicate in-person interactions, as well as our most essential campus spaces.
To do this, our team at the BHCC AIDE Innovation Lab has found creative ways to design virtual meeting spaces for students while utilizing our suite of digital tools and online support resources to their full potential. We’ve been relying on our dedicated Learning Management System, Moodle, BHCC chat tools, video conferencing, WebEx, and private student social channels to replicate our cherished campus spaces in a virtual setting. These spaces – like our DISH food pantry, Veterans Center, and our career advising offices – have given us all a sort of “home base,” and have reinforced the message that our BHCC community is still here. We aren’t going anywhere.
It has been encouraging to receive overwhelmingly positive reactions from our students and faculty members throughout this transition. Many of us, whether we know it or not, harbor a great deal of discomfort and even anxiety when it comes to adopting or learning to use new technologies. I’ve lost count of the number of times a student or staff member has told me “I never thought I could use these tools,” or, “I didn’t think I could do it but I have.” Seeing so many members of our own communities overcome those reservations, build up confidence, and improve their technical literacy skills has been a true silver lining during these times.
A message from Boston community college leaders
Coming Back Stronger
While we continue to support one another and ensure each other’s success, we must also remember to keep challenging these barriers, and to encourage our community and government leaders and those in positions of power to do the same. Our future success will be largely based on whether or not we apply what we’ve learned from this historic experience, and whether or not we use that knowledge to champion continued progress for others.
The road ahead of us may still be full of unknowns, but overcoming so many new challenges together will surely mean that we all come back stronger than ever.