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Community college adapts for online learning this fall

Most classes at Beaufort County Community College will take place online this fall, the college announced this week. BCCC has incorporated a system of remote learning since March 16, and Dr. David Loope, president of the college, hopes to improve on that model during the upcoming semester.

“We had to make the move fairly rapidly because of the (COVID-19) outbreak,” Loope said. “Luckily, we had the technology in place that allowed us to go to an asynchronous course schedule, so students would be able to link into the internet and get assignments from faculty members. What we found out is that students preferred to be face-to-face with their instructors at the same time, even if it’s online.”

Taking that feedback from students, most courses at the college will be synchronous this coming semester, meaning instructors and students will meet online for classes at the same time, with two-way communication via the internet. For students concerned about accessing courses online, the college has instituted a technology relief fund that will offer students free laptops and WiFi hotspots to use throughout the academic year.

“We’re hopeful that this will alleviate some of the concerns students may have about whether or not they’re going to be able to attend college in an online format,” Loope said.

According to a press release from BCCC, there are some exceptions to the online-only model, such as career and technical courses that require in-person labs. Examples include mechanical engineering technology, electrical engineering technology, welding, cosmetology, automotive systems, and agribusiness technology and public services courses, all of which will have an online, synchronous class schedule, blended with in-person labs.

“Some courses require hands-on experience,” Loope explained. “You cannot be a welder or an electrician or a truck driver without actually practicing that skill. … We are going to adhere strictly to CDC and state guidelines for mask wearing and social distancing, so every person in the class will be at least six feet apart, and classrooms will be sanitized between each class.”

Also holding classes on campus, the college’s health science programs will rotate students between online and in-person instruction. Skill-based continuing education courses will be offered with limited class sizes and social distancing in place, while lecture-based courses will be held through Blackboard or ZOOM.

ENROLLMENT, FINANCES AND OPERATIONS

For the past two years, enrollment at BCCC has been trending upwards, and the current summer semester was no exception, Loope said. Overall, he reports the college’s enrollment has not been impacted by COVID-19 so far.

“I’d say its status quo for right now,” Loope said. “What I think is transpiring is that students are waiting to see what colleges are going to do. Some of them may even be university students who are waiting to see what’s going to happen on their campuses before they make decisions. We’re not quite sure exactly what we’re going to face in terms of enrollment, but right now, we’re at about the same level we were at last fall, no significant decreases.”

Financially, Loope says the college has also managed to weather the storm relatively unscathed. An infusion of approximately $695,000 from the federal CARES Act helped. Of that amount, about half is being used to provide financial aid for students who were affected by COVID-19. Tuition was pro-rated for students who received a Pell Grant during the spring semester when they had to switch over by online classes.

The college has not had to eliminate any positions or reduce its course offerings in response to the pandemic, Loope said.

New students may call the BCCC Admissions Office at 252-940-6237 or apply at www.beaufortccc.edu/apply. Returning students can contact the Advising Center to get help registering for classes. To schedule an appointment with an advisor, students can send an email from their BCCC student account to advising.center@beaufortccc.edu or call the advising center at 252-940-6353 for an appointment.

Students wishing to obtain a laptop or wireless hotspot can contact Dr. LaTonya Nixon, vice president of Student Services, at latonya.nixon@beaufortccc.edu or 252-940-6216 for information about the technology relief fund. Supplies are limited, so students should apply as soon as possible. Also, in order to better navigate the platforms such as Blackboard Collaborate, students are encouraged to complete an online orientation session.