So many things have been uncertain over this last year, but the one thing that remains constant is the dedication of the professors and staff at Camden County College.
The initial response to the mandate for all schools to transfer online was a shock for everybody involved, especially since the college had about two weeks to train professors on the use of Canvas and Zoom. “It happened like a light switch, and all of us thought it would last maybe a couple weeks, maybe a couple months … but we are still not completely at the end of this journey,” said President Don Borden.
Professors from all departments are unified by the struggles they have encountered adjusting to virtual learning.
For instance, one of Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry Dr. Susan Choi’s biggest challenges was not being in person because she is not able to notice her students struggling in class. “Sometimes you can look at a person and know something is wrong, and we don’t have the ability very well to see that,” said Dr. Choi. Her concern was not only students who might not understand the topic and need extra help, but also with students who may be facing personal issues or food insecurities. She mentioned she refers people to the many resources on campus without singling anyone out to help them with food, abuse or any other hardships.
For Assistant Professor of History Dr. Nicole Jacoberger, her dilemma came with not being able to help students who are experiencing hardship. “I’ve always had an open office door, and after every class I stayed behind to chat with my students, whether it was about history or something they are going through,” she said, “I hope that my students are really OK going through all of this.”
Professor Martine Howard, chairperson of languages and communications and teacher of all levels of French and Spanish 101, said the hardest thing for her to adjust to is not being able to see and talk with her students face to face.
The level of empathy, personability and kindness of the professors at Camden County College is tremendously inspiring.
Professors have been able to bind together to exchange ideas, help each other to create lesson plans, experiment with ideas, and discover creative ways to make online class feel more personable and interactive. Their main priority — the students.
Just about everything has changed since last March for the staff at Camden County, from learning new technology programs, reconfiguring courses to be lucrative for students, increasing sanitation on campus, parking lot Wi-Fi, to vaccination clinics. The around-the-clock effort put in by everyone at the school has allowed the transition to help students continue to succeed, and their efforts are recognized.
Despite the challenges, lots of good have come out of this dark time. During asynchronous learning, professors have learned skills to make class more diverse even after the pandemic. It has also shown them how to be proficient in teaching online, making education more accessible to people with busy schedules. “ I am happy that we can reach a wider audience and that where you live or how you get here is not an obstacle,” said President Borden about online school.
In addition, the convenience of being able to work from home has been a nice change for some professors, eliminating a long commute and allowing the flexibility to log onto class when needed.
The faculty members all acknowledge the struggle for students to stay engaged and do well with asynchronous learning. However, a message Dr. Choi would like to share with her students is not to worry if they do not get the grades they hope for. “You have to do the best you can and that’s all you can do,” she said. “Be gentle on yourself.”
COVID-19 has helped many to refocus and identify what is important. It has left people with a new outlook.
“This time taught this old dog some new tricks, and I think this will help my students as well,” said Dr. Choi.
The power of the collective has not gone unnoticed. “This pandemic taught me the importance of perseverance, resilience, and that we can overcome adversity with collective effort and a unified approach,” said President Borden.
It taught Professor Howard that education can be done online and that she certainly prefers to be in the classroom, as she values her close connection to her students.
Dr. Jacoberger is grateful for her health, friends, family, and the power of the healthcare workers. “Working behind the scenes with doctors and nurses from various fields (on the campus vaccination clinic) has really reinforced my belief in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, I highly encourage everyone to get vaccinated!” she said.
President Borden expresses gratitude for the staff and all of those who have dedicated countless hours and effort to making this time as smooth as possible. One of the most inspiring things he has seen is at the vaccination clinic. “The appreciation on the part of the people that come in, and doing good on the part of people working there, it is inspirational and anybody involved in that process is inspiring,” said Borden. He feels pride to have CCC a contributing part in lowering numbers.