I do not intend to speak for everyone during this pandemic, which is dividing an already divided society; divided on many subjects including politics, religion, economy, and now, how we deal with higher education during a pandemic. However, I will speak to how this pandemic has affected Belmont College and how we are assisting our students in completing this academic year and help keep them on track to graduation.
Where do we go on from here? How do we go on from here? How long will classes have to be primarily taught remotely? There are opinion stories and a few studies already surfacing that predict that in the near future, many colleges and universities, in particular smaller ones, may now be forced to close. While this may be true around the nation, it is not necessarily true in The Ohio Valley.
At Belmont College, we plan to continue classes on schedule and offer a typical summer and fall schedule of courses. We will maintain a full selection of programs, certificates, and workforce training options. We want to continue to meet the academic and training needs of areas we provide service to. This includes our designated counties of Belmont, Harrison, and Monroe, as well as neighboring counties in and outside Ohio.
How can we do this in the middle of a pandemic, you might ask?
Before the current crisis, we had redeveloped our strategic plan. Part of that plan was to expand technology that would allow us to stop losing classroom time for emergencies such as weather delays/cancellations and unexpected building outages. The idea was also intended to use technology in order to reduce paper consumption as well as allow the use of e-books, free-books, and the ability to share large documents across all disciplines, wherever possible, offering students the possibility to save thousands of dollars in book costs.
As we developed the plans, we found it necessary to select devices that were user-friendly with little need for maintenance and training. Additionally, we wanted something that could be provided to students, faculty, and staff so that our IT (Information Technology) Department only had to maintain one highly affordable technology platform.
We selected the Apple iPad, which was already being used in many of the local high schools, therefore many of our students were already familiar with it. An important benefit of the iPad is the mobility and versatility of the device; students have the ability to use their iPad anywhere on campus, in the classroom, during internships, and in the field, providing them endless ways to learn new concepts and express their creativity. iPads are powerful educational tools that can run more than 80,000 education apps from word processing to note taking — apps designed especially for iPad — that cover a wide range of subjects and needs.
As a result, the "BeConnected" initiative was established.
The purpose of BeConnected is to encourage completion and retention, as well as to enhance the way we teach and prepare students for the technology-driven careers that await them. The main focus of the BeConnected initiative is to put the proper technology into the hands of our students while remaining accessible and affordable at the same time. This initiative has brought a whole new level of knowledge and experience for our students. iPads not only keep information organized and available, but they also enable interactive and engaged learning experiences, as well as make learning accessible from any location, at any time.
Most importantly, at a time when our buildings are closed for weeks due to a pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck quickly. Having such a technology platform already in place
in our strategic plan, it made switching to the online delivery of courses easier. It also allowed us to safely shut our campus buildings down sooner so as to avoid face-to-face contact and spreading of the virus. Within a week of notification, our fantastic faculty, supported by an equally incredible staff, were able to meet the needs of a vast majority of our students. I cannot say all students because online classes are not always possible or the best format for some of our labs and hands-on classes. Not every student is comfortable with online delivery yet, but the technology is here to stay and is used in most of the fields we prepare our students for. Our multi-year planned use of the technology is part of a long-range plan, rather than equipment just assigned to students without a safety envelope of technology assistance and being part of a complete technology ecosystem.
The use of iPads in the classroom has and will continue to facilitate how students and faculty generate content, collaborate, stay connected, and communicate both online and within the physical space of a classroom. Thanks to our BeConnected initiative, Belmont College was able to make the switch to online class delivery smoothly. Our students were not suddenly thrown into the need to learn new technology quickly to adapt to the new paradigm. Classes remain on schedule and we are currently enrolling for 2020 Summer and Fall classes.