CMC makes plan for classes during the pandemic
DILLON — As with all schools across America, Colorado Mountain College and its two campuses in Dillon and Breckenridge have developed a plan for reopening.
Unlike many universities and colleges that have seen a hit because of the novel coronavirus, enrollment at CMC’s campuses in Summit County is up 25%, according to Dave Askeland, CMC vice president and dean of the Dillon and Breckenridge campuses. However, that figure does not represent final enrollment for the new school year, as the college gets most of its students in the days and weeks before classes start.
“I would imagine that we would see a lot of change between now and then as well, depending on what other schools do in the state,” Askeland said. “So as of today we are up 25% in comparison to last year, but I would guess that we will see a lot of volatility between now and then in terms of registration numbers because there’s so many unknowns.”
The college is offering courses in three formats: online only, flex and in person. The learning models allow for campuses to open their buildings, while following precautions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Early on we made a decision that we wanted to be in a position to adapt,” Chief Operating Officer Matt Gianneschi said. “Whether or not we were in an environment that was allowing college to be more open or more restrictive.”
Most of the college’s courses will be offered in the flex model, Gianneschi said. While they may be online for a large portion of the semester, flex classes are more interactive and personal.
“It’s what we would call a synchronous course, which means it is real time,” he said.
A flex format is similar to many offices’ work-from-home approach. Instead of having class at a set time in a physical building, students will be able to log on to a livestream to have a virtual class with their professor and classmates.
The college has also set aside classrooms for the flex format, Gianneschi said. The classrooms will give faculty the access to technology that allows them to teach virtually if they choose to use it. Gianneschi said he told the college’s IT team to spend up to $3.5 million on technology like cameras and microphones.
The flex format also gives professors the option to host small group discussions and allows them to quickly shift to in-person teaching if conditions change.
“The goal is to try to be able to have relationships with students,” Gianneschi said.
The college will continue to offer online-only classes, which are typically self-paced and can be done from anywhere.
“A traditional online course, a student would log in at their leisure, they would have weekly assignments, weekly readings,” he said.
Some classes will continue to be in person when necessary. The college’s nursing, emergency medical services, culinary and police instruction classes all require hands-on curriculum.
All of the in-person classes will be following guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Every classroom will have sanitizing stations and be arranged to follow physical distancing requirements.
Students will have to keep track of their own symptoms and make sure that they’re not going to class if they feel sick. Gianneschi said it’s easier to successfully do that with college students than younger students.
“Most of our students are working older adults. So there’s an expectation for the majority of our students they know the protocols,” he said.
The college has been issuing instructional videos on its website and through email to let students know what will be expected. The ultimate goal of the preparation is to make sure everyone is safe, Askeland said.
“Certainly, we number one want to make sure that both students, faculty and staff are all safe through this,” he said. “We’re providing an environment that people can concentrate on learning as opposed to worrying about the health or the protocols that are in place.”
The college is also focused on ensuring students have access to online learning. Gianneschi said the part of the reason for opening campuses is to allow students to have access to internet, printers and a quiet place to study if they need it.
Over the summer, the college offered free tuition and books to all students. Initially, the fees were paid for through money from the federal CARES Act.
However, the school quickly realized it would not be able to use that funding to offer free tuition. Instead of going back on its promise, the college paid for that tuition with its own funding.
“There was a lot of despair at that point and we were all really scared,” Gianneschi said. “So we said ‘We need to do something to create hope in our communities. We need to do something that is an investment back into the communities. It’s not about the college right now.’”
The school will not be offering free tuition in the fall. However, Gianneschi encourages all students to look into applying for financial aid because not everyone realizes they qualify for it.
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