While COVID-19 brought unprecedented challenges to Southern State Community College and many other education institutions, it has also launched the local community college into the future.
SSCC President Dr. Kevin Boys said the college’s focus on developing personal connections with students while providing robust remote learning options became more important than ever when the pandemic first reared its head — and as case counts drop and restrictions relax, the college is continuing its course.
“Even before the pandemic, we wanted to find different ways to reach out to our students who were taking courses on high school campuses,” he said. “We had bought a few Zoom licenses, then all of a sudden, this was the only way. The pandemic really accelerated something we were already making plans to do. In that respect, the experience of the pandemic has launched us into the future.”
But the work isn’t over, Boys said.
“When we think about the changes in online education and some of the preferences of our students, we’re still trying to figure out how to make those personal connections — how to maintain and strengthen them in a virtual environment,” he said. “We’re making progress.”
Boys said when the virus appeared in March, the college as a whole had to “turn on a dime.”
“We had to completely change our approach to teaching our students in order to help them continue on their path,” he said. “It was a matter of faculty and administration working together to figure out really quickly how to keep the process of teaching and learning the best we could.”
According to Boys, some of those changes involved new technology and equipment, such has free WiFi hotspots and laptops for students to take home, as well as training staff how to effectively conduct the college’s business remotely.
“When I think about our ability to do that, I marvel at everyone’s sense of taking this responsibility seriously,” said Boys.
Boys said he encouraged staff to keep flexibility as a core value during the pandemic, and that continues to pay off.
“I really applaud the faculty and staff for exercising flexibility for the benefit of our students,” Boys said. “Over and over again, there are examples of faculty being flexible with students, maybe because their internet wouldn’t work or they couldn’t make it to a Zoom meeting.”
Boys said it’s this focus on students’ wellbeing that has made the college a place where students can feel comfortable coming to class, whether in person or remote.
“They’re never far from home, and it’s a very friendly environment,” Boys said.
In the end, “We never lost sight of our mission,” said Boys. “We’re here to help our students continue to make progress.”