Maintaining Structure and Expectations, ECPI University- Greensboro Keeps Students Moving Toward Graduation
At the onset of the New Year, no one could have foreseen the new reality in which we find ourselves. However, some organizations have proved to be well prepared, maybe not for the Coronavirus itself, but rather for the expected. ECPI University and its Greensboro campus are among them.
"I will admit that I was initially worried about how ECPI was going to handle the pandemic that has shook our world, but everyone has done an amazing job in handling the transition from in-seat to remote teaching," says student Mike Miller. "I still feel as if I am receiving the quality education I expect and deserve. I'm proud to say that ECPI kept its promise and we are able to continue forward on our educational journey. Yes, there were a few hiccups and bumps on the road but, to me it feels as if the transition has been seamless.
Some of the success stems from the educational technology ECPI University has been refining throughout the years. For example, we developed what's called the VCASTLE (Virtualization, Cloud, and Storage Technology Learning Environment) system, designed to enhance the student experience by providing remote access to real equipment with built-in advanced operating systems and lab exercises. This, combined with an wide range of dynamic simulation and learning platforms, is allowing students to experience remote learning in the most interactive and realistic way possible. What's more, our students are taking their classes in a synchronous learning environment, maintaining their regular schedule and their own disciplined routine.
However, there are human elements that transcend technology. "I have tried to keep things as consistent as possible and get the students into a routine of what to expect," says Computer and Information Science faculty member Dr. Jennifer Gentry.
"I think that as the educator, it is my job to make this transition as seamless as possible. This consistency has enhanced the students understanding of what is being expected of them. I have communicated to them that the expectations have not changed. My expectations remained as always to attend class, complete work, ask questions, and understand the material. The delivery of class is all that has changed. I promptly begin attendance at 8:00 AM and lecture directly after, which is consistent with what I did in person, only we are using the Microsoft Teams environment now. Again, I think this consistency has helped ease the concerns of the students that we may not be together, but class is still run the same way and they have that solid foundation of knowing what is expected of them."
Students like Anthony Myers seem to appreciate that. "My professors have been there to answer any questions or concerns we may have," says Anthony. "I think they have done a wonderful job considering this happened two weeks into a term with hardly any setbacks. There have been hardly any changes to our daily routine, except not having to drive an hour to class and actually be on campus."
Dr. Gentry says the hardest change is the absence of "water cooler" communication, the opportunity to get to know each other on a personal level. "I try to open the lectures early and have small talk conversations or ice breakers with the students, encouraging them to participate," she says. "We have talked about everything from movies we are watching, video games we are into, homeschooling children struggles (those that had kids), where to find toilet paper, to our likes and dislikes about this environment. I feel that this has helped everyone involved feel less isolated and understand that we are not alone in this; everyone has had struggles both in class and outside of class.
"I have also tried to have one-on-one time with each student during the time of class when they are working on labs. Whether it's a question as simple as 'How are you doing? How are the kids doing? or even 'Are you doing okay?' I think it makes a connection with the student so they feel comfortable reaching out if they have questions. I am used to being able to see those quizzical looks on faces, or overhear side conversations to know when I might need to jump in. So in turn, I just bug each student at least once a class even if it just to make small talk. This creates a personal connection so that students feel comfortable to ask questions or to ask for help. I usually hop around to the various group meetings and have heard all types of conversations."
Keeping spirit high has been a collaborative effort. Mike Miller has a message for his fellow students. I just want you to keep your eye on the prize and remember that we are all in this together," he says. "Stay strong and stay safe. We will still go from Zero to Bachelor's in 2.5 years!"
Echoing that sentiment, Dr. Gentry also has a message to share. "The biggest take away for each and every one of us is that we are all in the same boat," she says. "We are all having challenges of learning to take classes with kids in the background, pets barking, or lawn services going on under your window. I think the transparency of what we are struggling with individually helps everyone to feel less weak in what we are able to accomplish, and stronger as a whole."
Interested in earning a degree in computer information systems? If you want to earn a Master of Science in Information Systems, consider ECPI University for your education. With year-round classes and an accelerated schedule, you could find yourself graduating in as little as 15 months. For more information, connect with a helpful admissions agent today.
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