Message from Dr. Belinda S. Miles: We Persist! – July 10, 2020
July 10, 2020
At seven weeks prior to fall semester, many of us have a mixture of experiences and emotions as we face the dual crises of a persistent public health pandemic and struggles for racial justice and equality – especially for Black communities around the nation. Despite these very real circumstances, we persist!
We persist in working to fulfill our mission to provide high quality academics, robust student supports, and engaging student involvement. The environment in which we do this is increasingly technology based. Our faculty rose to the occasion brilliantly this spring converting all courses to remote formats and they continue to invest in honing their skills in effective remote/online teaching through intensive professional development this summer.
However, the pandemic has revealed the ongoing challenge of an unrelenting digital divide, not only regarding access to technology, but also learning on tech-based platforms. Consistent messaging from our counseling and enrollment services units indicate student fears about remote/online modalities this fall which they have cited as a reason for not yet enrolling.
Colleagues, we cannot allow our students to give up on their academic aspirations! Even in the face of unemployment, uncertainty regarding childcare, food insecurities, and more, we must help them keep their dreams in front of them and help them make plans to realize this future – even if it takes them a little longer. Our institution is fully operational and we must go above and beyond to help students understand new class formats as well as the registration process. We must be available to make and respond to phone calls and emails and use every resource available to welcome new students and keep continuing students on track. No excuses!
This call to action is directly tied to our mission of opportunity and also to our ability to exist as a viable institution. Here are just a few ideas about what we can do now. Please contact my office with any other suggestions.
- Explain new format definitions such as synchronous and asynchronous courses to students. Repeat as necessary. Synchronous courses are better for those who prefer set times with their teacher and classmates. Asynchronous courses provide more flexibility for those with work or family demands. Today’s technology has the capacity to bring people closer together while providing deep engagement and a sense of belonging. We need to assure students that they can still achieve their ambitions in this environment. Let them know that many of their peers are succeeding in these environments and they can too. Our scheduling office is working to recode each course section to make this clearer for registering students.
- Produce brief video testimonials of faculty members and students discussing how they are addressing, adapting to, and succeeding in remote learning during summer 2020. Use these for texting, posting to the college website, or sharing with each other on social media to build confidence for new and continuing students to know that they, too, can achieve. Similar audio messages could be created for our college phone lines.
- Commit to improving our capacity to deliver effective services and instruction remotely. As we continue to use Zoom and other technology applications to collaborate and do our work, this Inside Higher Ed article offers tips on how to make sessions more interactive and dynamic. This information may be useful to our college community groups, strategic planning and other teams, departments, and event planners.
After attending a number of virtual events, I know we have our own “virtual pros.” For those who have hosted successful events or engaged in lively discussion with colleagues or students, please share your own tips for ways to make our virtual engagement even more #VikingStrong.
There is still time for us to increase fall 2020 enrollment and get/keep students on track academically in dynamic learning environments. But this is not “business as usual” and each of us will have to dig deeper in our outreach to students. We cannot rely on “building it and expecting them to come.” More is required and we must persist!
Dr. Belinda S. Miles