GREAT FALLS — Colleges across the country are transitioning to online-only courses for the remainder of the Spring semester. In an effort, to slow the spread of Coronavirus across the country, many college campuses have closed almost entirely, and will be continuing with remote classes for the for foreseeable future.
Great Falls College MSU is making the same transition, closing their campus to everyone except for students, and asking that those students only come to campus if necessary. GFC is ahead of the curve when it comes to moving online, however. They were a partially online school long before the Coronavirus pandemic swept the nation.
“Most of our students have taken at least one online class, and I have many students that are not physically in Great Falls,” said GFC MSU Accounting Program Director Kerry Dolan. “They’re either in the smaller outlying communities or some are even military spouses out of state.”
Dolan is serving as a mentor for instructors in all departments as they move to teaching online. She is, as the kids like to say, tech-savvy. She says that many faculty members already have experience teaching online, which makes the switch easier. Without the need to train teacher on the online teaching process, it normally only takes the standard one to two pre-semester weeks that teachers need to prepare for a normal class.
Using a number of different platforms and softwares that are no doubt rising in popularity across the country, teachers can look at the same material as the students, demonstrate lessons, and even field questions through the interactive process. Kerry says that the technical side isn’t even the biggest obstacle.
“The biggest challenge is probably getting students to engage,” Dolan explained. “Sometimes they think they’re totally alone in front of their laptops, but really reaching out to try and make a connection and let them know that there is a real person on the other side of the screen.”
While professors have the option of coming into the building and using the available spaces to teach their classes, pretty much everything that they need is available to them remotely, meaning they can continue to teach students without having to leave their homes.
“We can do it entirely online, the technology is available,” Dolan explained. “We have the ability to forward calls, students can reach us a variety of different ways. That’s the beauty of remote, online education is that you can do it from anywhere.”
For more information on what services are and are not available at Great Falls College MSU during this outbreak, head to www.gfcmsu.edu.