After finishing third-shift at her workplace, Fox Valley Technical College student Caroline Gray grabs a quick morning nap before her classes begin later in the day. As a student in the Laboratory Science Technician program, Caroline’s class schedule this semester has looked like none other before, due to the pandemic.
“Out of five classes this semester, three involve a hybrid of online lectures and in-person labs,” Caroline said. “It’s been hard. But I’ve been successful because of my classmates’ help and my instructors’ flexibility.”
If flexibility is the name of the game, FVTC has created the ultimate playbook.
“In our fall 2020 term, 58% of our offerings have been available on campus,” said Dr. Chris Matheny, executive vice president and chief academic officer at FVTC. “Many of those had some online component to facilitate safety and distancing, but we worked hard to utilize campus space to do what we do best – hands-on technical education.”
To accommodate students who need to physically demonstrate their skills for a particular occupation, such as welding and automotive technology, some programs implemented lower enrollment caps. This created more space in the classroom for students like Caroline to work safely. Instructors also adjusted their online lesson plans to maximize the amount of time devoted to practical learning in the classroom.
“Instructors are doing their best to demonstrate the labs to us before we actually do them,” Caroline said. “It takes a lot of self-discipline to keep up with the online lectures, but it helps us in getting the most out of the lab time in the classroom.”
It also took discipline for Fox Valley Tech to facilitate this learning environment, but the college successfully offered a robust list of degree and diploma programs this semester. Just under 3,000 course sections were offered in a variety of delivery methods. It’s been an educational journey for everyone.
“In many ways, this situation has given our faculty and staff a different opportunity to help students build critical employability skills that our employers need,” Dr. Matheny said. “Whether it is a pandemic, an economic downturn, or something else, our students are prepared to adapt to change, now more than ever.”