Front Range Westminster faculty share their outlooks on the novel Coronavirus pandemic

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Virtually no sector, public or private, has been untouched by the novel COVID-19 pandemic. FRCC Westminster and higher education institutions throughout the country are no exception. Many closed in March for the remainder of spring semester when it became clear that the virus was spreading. Faculty at FRCC Westminster are adjusting to real time remote learning, one of the new learning options for students. 

“Real-time remote” is the term for classes that can be taught virtually. It means that students have an assigned class time, they log onto Zoom for their meeting time, and they submit their work online via Desire to Learn. Attendance and participation are expected. This option is less expensive than online learning and meant to mimic traditional in person classes.

Tamara Box, who teaches computer science classes at FRCC Westminster, said she normally teaches a mix of in person and online classes each semester. 

“D2L is an excellent platform for setting up remote learning and that makes the course content and infrastructure very easy,” Box said. “However, despite all of these advantages, I still prefer to have some face time with students every week. It is difficult to cater virtual sessions to meet everyone’s schedules.” 

Because her class is computer-based, she is teaching remotely this semester. The loss of in-person interaction has come with some challenges for her and her students. Despite this, she has some tips for success. 

“To be successful as a remote student or teacher, you have to put in the effort to connect,” Box said. “Sure, you can get through the whole class barely speaking with anyone, but you’ll have such a richer experience if you try to engage with students and the instructor. Go to the virtual office hours, IM the instructor with questions, reach out to your peers in discussions and help each other!”

Another computer science professor, Leslie Hurr, is enjoying teaching remotely, despite being worried about the loss of facetime turning students off of college classes. 

“I am nervous I’m going to lose students [who are] intimidated by the remote fashion,” Hurr said. “I try to tell my students, online and remote, that I’m available for them. I’ll do a Zoom session or stay after class.”

Overall, she has a very positive outlook about COVID-19 and its effects on both her personally and at FRCC Westminster. She talked at length about President Andy Dorsey’s weekly town halls and the extensive support for faculty.

“FRCC has advanced so much because of COVID,” Hurr said. “Andy Dorsey and so many people have joined together as a unified group to do as much as they possibly can to provide training and resources. Andy never used to have town halls, and now he has two a week.”

Leslie stated that she may even want to teach virtually long-term. Prior to COVID-19, she had a long commute. Now, she just walks downstairs to her office. Between the increased flexibility and support for staff, her outlook is bright.

 “We need to rise above and work as a team, all of us together,” Hurr said. “Andy Dorsey sees this as another opportunity for us to offer a different mode [of learning] for those that end up liking it. I do think that COVID has advanced everyone further technologically.”

The Effects of COVID-19 On Student Life

Written by Sarah McClure

Photo by Sarah McClure

Fall is a time for change, and a major shift has extended to students learning at FRCC Westminster this semester. As Colorado navigates the COVID-19 pandemic for the sixth month since mandatory quarantine orders were issued across the country in March, many students must adapt the ways in which they learn.

Ali West is a student in the fully-remote Web Development Certificate program at FRCC Westminster. She believes she has made the right choice by taking exclusively online courses.

“I chose to do online even when they were still offering some in-person classes, because this is a far better plan,” said West. “I know we’re probably going to have shutdowns again when it gets cold.”

According to BoulderCounty.org, there was a recent spike of 114 new reported cases of the coronavirus in Boulder County. West attributes this to in-person classes resuming at the Colorado University Boulder campus. 

“If I were to get [the] coronavirus, I would probably fail my classes,” said West. “It’s a huge risk. It makes me so glad I chose to do everything online, because it gives me a lot more control over my circumstances.”

Although she is glad to have the opportunity of learning remotely, she admitted it would be nice to have more interaction with the professors. One of her professors hosts a weekly Zoom meeting to help with challenges that may arise for students learning via this type of modality.

West mentioned that some benefits she has experienced with online learning are an enhanced sense of ownership of her education, and founding greater time management skills. 

“It takes initiative to do online learning,” said West.

Maile Wibbens is a student in the Clinical Emergency Medical Technician program at FRCC Westminster. She has a longer commute due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

“The Fort Collins EMT program filled up, so I travel down there now,” said Wibbens.

Her program, a hybrid modality, is what many educational institutions are implementing this semester as a resolution to concerns for safety. This means that, while her skills labs and tests are done in person, the majority of learning is done online via the Desire2Learn interface and Zoom lectures. 

Wibbens has been on campus for class twice now, having taken the other six classes online. When Wibbens and two other students studied for a test in the common area of the A Floor, each of them took care to sit at their own table. The FRCC Westminster staff ensured tables were a CDC-recommended 6 feet apart. 

Wibbens is forthcoming with a few pros and cons regarding the hybrid modality. She counts herself as a visual learner, so she prefers to see material on the screen during lectures. She mentions that kinesthetic learners might find online learning challenging, but [linguistic] learners may feel at ease in this type of environment. 

The most notable absence thus far is the social aspect of learning. 

“I think a big part of learning is being able to bounce ideas off of each other,” said Wibbens. “With our class, we’re very silent. I think that’s kind of hard, not being able to learn beyond just the lecture from a teacher.” 

One positive takeaway from this situation is that since she only has to make the long drive a few times throughout the semester, there is more time to walk the dogs, ride her horse, or cook a timely dinner. She adds that it’s good to sit down and be in the headspace for productivity when she logs in. She is able to do her homework immediately after her lecture, without having to drive home and become distracted by other things. 

“You do get a little bit more of your life back.” Wibbens says.

“Try not to procrastinate as much, because you don’t know what changes [are coming] in the world and in life,” said Wibbens. “Taking the chances that you can, while you can. Sometimes it won’t be as easy, or you’re in isolation in your house because of a pandemic.”

Although an influx of people willing to work on the front lines of the healthcare industry may be great news for denizens, Wibbens can’t help but worry about potential employment oversaturation after completing the program. She cites that about 140 people in Northern Colorado will be graduating at the same time.

Students at FRCC Westminster are unsure of what the future holds for education.

A Note from the editor

Written by Joe Fisk

After a short hiatus from publishing over the summer semester due to COVID-19-related complications, The Front Page student newspaper is returning for the fall semester! The paper will continue its dedication to delivering relevant news to Front Range Community College. The Front Page intends to continue bringing readers campus news, features, interests as well as COVID-19 updates and how they affect FRCC. The Front Page staff looks forward to bringing readers new content and thanks you for your patience!