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With MCC completely online, advisors and students adjust to 'new normal'

In the wake of COVID-19, Metropolitan Community College has moved all classes to online and alternate delivery method formats. Along with classes, many other MCC services have had to adjust to a completely virtual way of helping students.

Academic advisors and enrollment navigators have had to change the way in which they meet with students, meaning calls, emails and other forms of communication have become very important in order to keep helping students succeed and feel at ease during this time.

“I am continuing to interact with students via email and phone,” says Melissa Christiansen, an academic advisor for First Year Experience students. “Students are able to make phone or Zoom appointments for designated times to discuss their educational plans.”

Veronica Castro, an enrollment navigator at the South Omaha Campus, says the students she meets with on a regular basis were unsure at first, but have now embraced many different forms of communication.

“I find that a lot of students were hesitant to use Zoom but I get on the phone and try to talk through the steps,” Castro says. “I have had a few that really like it and a lot that still prefer phone appointments. I also text a lot. I find that texting is a lot easier for many students and I get a better response through texting.”

Hans Rudin, an academic advisor for trades students at the Applied Technology Center, says that moving to 100 percent online has been a learning curve for him and the students he helps.
“Since my students are more trades-based, they are certainly learning to adapt to Zoom for their instruction but still prefer their academic advising through calls, emails, and MCC-approved texting through Google Voice,” Rudin explains.

Advisors and navigators have heard from both students and MCC instructors that the transition hasn’t been completely seamless, but everyone is adapting as best they can.

“The transition to operating online remotely has not been without its challenges, but I think we are starting to settle in to this new normal,” Christiansen says.

Castro says there have been barriers for her students, too.  

“I have students that have technology barriers and so directing those students to community and college resources is a focus for navigators and advisors” says Castro. “MCC instructors are amazing. They are consistently working on assisting our students during this difficult time.”
Rudin says for his students, who are looking to enter fields that are mostly hands-on work, this period has been tough, but MCC instructors are going above and beyond to make sure they are getting the best education.

“The students I talk to are trying to learn how to repair car fenders, overhaul diesel engines, fight fires and climb utility line poles, so it’s quite a challenge for them to learn those trades online,” he says. “At the same time, though, our instructors are doing a great job of front-loading the theory so that when it’s safe for everyone to return, they’ll be ready for lab experience.
These instructors are indeed tackling the challenge of demonstrating some of their expertise in front of a camera so that the students feel like they are not just reading and listening, but also watching in detail so that they can get to the ‘doing’ part really soon.”

The advisors say their workload has not changed, just taken on new forms. At the end of the day, they are all still eager to help students during this difficult time.

“We are still very busy and it’s business as usual,” says Castro. “We are in the business of helping students and this is a time where students feel uneasy and uncomfortable with the unknown, so we talk through some of those concerns.”