A virtual “Coffee and Conversation” was held on Tuesday, June 30 via a YouTube livestream for a semi-formal discussion and information session with Grand Rapids Community College staff.
Bill Pink, GRCC President, and Brian Knetl, GRCC Provost, hosted the chat. Knetl presented information to viewers in a 25-minute slideshow. GRCC staff were alerted of the event via the “GRCC Today” employee newsletter.
They began the presentation by going over enrollment numbers and other data from both sessions of the summer semester. That data consisted of:
- 6,146 students currently enrolled in the summer semester, which is down 1.2%
- 38,205 billing units, which is down 1.3%
- 35,386 credits, which is up 3.4%
Presumably, based on those numbers, the waived fees for the semester led some students to take on more credits than they might otherwise.
Knetl also explained the solution the college used to help students finish some of the School of Workforce Development and Job Training that were cut off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This solution was to bring said courses back to campus in mid-June after the relevant departments submitted “return to campus” plans for approval by GRCC.
“These return to campus plans were created and approved by the college to ensure a safe and responsible return,” Knetl said. “There are a few more programs that will be coming back during the summer months and in the coming days for the same reason to finish their course work.”
“GRCC is in Phase Two of our five phase phase-in plan,” Knetl said. “Phase Two has allowed us to bring some of those programs back and some other faculty and staff to come back on campus.”
Knetl explained that the school does not currently have a date set for advancement to Phase Three, which will allow the college to bring back their testing center, Early Childhood Learning Lab, and spaces for students to access the internet and study. Knetl said he considers the study spaces “really important.”
“We will continue to monitor conditions and look to see when we can safely do that (transition to Phase Three),” Knetl said.
The main topic of conversation regarding the fall semester was the variety of course delivery modes available. Knetl told staff that only a fraction of class offerings would be on campus, since social distancing makes it impossible to run the college at normal capacity.
Instead, GRCC has used the months since the outbreak to develop a group of four delivery options, which will enable students to further tailor their schooling to their needs.
“Students have received communication that that has taken place,” Knetl said.
The delivery mode options are:
- Online: these classes have no set meeting times with classmates or professors. These courses offer flexibility and lots of room for independent study.
- Virtual: these classes involve live virtual meetings through programs such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. The benefit of this option is the ability to have face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers without setting foot on campus.
- Hybrid: these classes have in-person meeting times on campus, but coursework is completed online. This is another option that provides interaction while allowing for more flexibility than the traditional classroom does.
- In person: these classes are held in the traditional delivery mode on campus, and offer structure and routine. These are usually the bread and butter of GRCC course offerings, but will be limited in the fall.
“The courses we are offering are not evenly distributed between these modes,” Knetl pointed out.
Most of the classes will be held virtually so as to make space on campus for the in person courses the college is running. Also, in person classes are subject to transition to online or virtual modes if the situation with COVID-19 requires it.
Safety measures including social distancing, sanitization practices, and the use of face coverings are also top concerns for Fall 2020. Knetl told the staff that a syllabus addendum explaining these expectations is in the works.
“Safety protocols are in place currently for the summer, and will continue to be in place for the fall to ensure, as I’ve said, a safe and responsible return to campus,” Knetl said.
Knetl also mentioned that non-compliance with these protocols could qualify as a code of conduct violation, as has been stated in drafts of the syllabus addendum that he has seen.
“Summer protocols clearly state that GRCC requires compliance with all health and safety procedures, including social distancing, wiping down shared equipment and work spaces, and wearing face coverings in shared spaces,” Knetl said.
Where necessary and possible, such as in labs, GRCC will be erecting plexiglass barriers. When social distancing and barriers are not possible, the college will be conducting temperature checks.
During his presentation, Knetl also mentioned fall enrollment numbers, which have taken a significant hit. These were the counts as of Tuesday’s presentation:
- 5,683 students enrolled, which is down 27.8% compared to last year
- 54,734 billing units, which is down 29.7%
- 47,640 credit hours, which is down 29%
Knetl said he was pleased to also mention the various ways GRCC has been and will continue to support students during this challenging time. GRCC has offered academic services, loaner laptops, basic needs, and CARES Act funding support for students as they carry on with their schooling from a distance. The CARES Act has distributed a total of $1,815,500 amongst 3,361 students to date. The funding was dispersed to aid students needing funding for food, technology, course materials, housing, healthcare, and childcare.