May 20, 2020

PORTSMOUTH – Great Bay Community College seamlessly shifted its operations when the coronavirus forced the campus into remote operations, moving classes online and modifying curriculum and student services to match the urgency of the moment.

Great Bay has made remote learning part of its array of educational options to meet the needs of a diverse and changing student body for several years, so the move to an entirely online campus community came quickly and with relative ease. In addition to shifting classes online, Great Bay created a suite of virtual support services to help students feel engaged and connected during the transition, while maintaining its outreach and community service efforts across the Seacoast.

“I am incredibly proud of all that GBCC has accomplished in just a few short weeks.” said Tina Favara, Vice President of Student Success & Enrollment Management. “With student success at the heart of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not wavered in our commitment to students. The character of our faculty, staff and students is clear, as we all work together in new and innovative ways.”

According to Favara, the Admissions team is now hosting virtual information sessions and tours, counselors from the Advising & Transfer Center are personally calling students and setting up virtual advising sessions, the Business Office and Financial Aid Office are ensuring that students can navigate unexpected financial barriers and tutors, and academic coaches and library staff continue to support student success.

Staff from the Student Life office have even launched new ways to engage students in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities virtually, as well as ensuring that the basic needs of our students are met.

“We are particularly grateful to our essential staff in IT, Campus Safety and the One-Stop (service center), Favara continued, “who have ensured our building is safe, systems are operational and business continuity is maintained and most importantly, our faculty who are committed to ensuring the same academic excellence in an online and distance learning modality.”

To transition all courses to online for remainder of the spring semester and the summer semesters, faculty responded quickly using their spring break to adjust schedules and curriculum delivery. According to Lisa McCurley, Vice President of Academic Affairs, this transition was a success. “With hard work, creativity, cooperation, teamwork, and adaptability, we were able to convert 99.99% of all of our face to face, clinical and lab courses during the first week and 100% of the courses by end of second week.”

The college’s versatility showed up across the academic platform, from the arts and humanities to nursing. Annette Cohen, Professor of Fine Arts and Digital Design, demonstrated drawing techniques to her students via Zoom. Steve Bargdill, an adjunct English professor who typically uses PowerPoint for lectures, mastered video-editing software to create a video about his topic, “The Beat Movement and 1950s Consumerism,” to help students engage with the subject.

Cindy Walton, English Department Chair, said most instructors in her department are using Zoom to connect with students, and it’s going well. In composition classes, students break into small discussion groups, which Zoom technology enables, and meet again in larger classroom settings, Walton said.

“They were able to screen-share and present their works, and we were able to view a short piece of documentary together,” Walton said. “There were only a few students missing and we were able to cover the same lecture and class activities I had planned for the classroom.  Although not the same as an in-person class, we were all pretty pleased with the results. Also, I can’t think of a better way to spend two hours on a Tuesday morning while quarantined than discussing poetry.”

To accommodate the shift to an online learning environment, Chemistry Professor, Michael Gordon spent the last couple days prior to having to leave the College working in his lab conducting the experiments his students would have performed throughout the rest of the semester.  “I took pictures and videos of the process and the results, then assembled the images into PowerPoint presentations for the students.” On regular lab days, Gordon and his students meet via Zoom for his prelab lecture prior and he then has been able to present the pre-prepared labs. “The students see the lab in action and perform the same post-lab analysis as if it had been a live lab.  So far it has yielded positive results and garnered good feedback from the students.”

Beverly Hodsdon, a Digital Media Technologies adjunct faculty, praised Great Bay’s IT Helpdesk for making things work smoothly and for her students for showing up ready to engage. “So impressed with my students who were great, engaged and eager to chat! I miss seeing all the smiling faces when walking through the front doors at the GBCC – but today I saw 10 smiling faces on my computer screen!” she wrote in a message.

Meanwhile, Great Bay has amplified its outreach into the community.

Lori Mancuso, Professor of Nursing, provided her expertise to educators at the Dover High School CTE Health Science Program, who had asked for help implementing a virtual nursing assistant program. Mancuso invited representatives from the Dover program to attend a virtual learning lab, so they could learn about open-web resources and other issues involved in effective web education.

When the campus moved to a remote operation, Great Bay donated food from its Campus Cupboard to Gather, a Portsmouth food panty where Great Bay students volunteer. Deb Anthony, Gather’s executive director, praised the college for its commitment. “When two organizations like this can find common ground to improve the life of people in our community, it is a powerful force,” she said.

“Great Bay looks forward to continuing to serve students and the community, regardless of the challenges we are facing,” said Cathryn Addy, interim president of the college.