photo courtesy of John Cox

How is Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) doing as we cope with the Coronavirus?

“The College community has truly risen to the challenge of continuing to educate while being thrust into remote learning formats.  Many of our students never envisioned learning through an online approach.   At the same time, our faculty and staff never dreamed we would need to pivot in a matter of days to a new paradigm of learning.

This is a work in progress from every angle.   I have coached several students who have reached out, and even in my own household, to understand this as a major game changer, but don’t walk away from the challenge.  We realize this is overwhelming, but it is a manageable challenge. It is clearly not as comfortable as being on campus and in the classroom.  You’re not alone.  We are truly all in this together.

We are coping with Covid as a community. Even though on-line and remote learning and working is new to some of our students, faculty and staff, we remain united to get through this pandemic together by moving forward. We are rising to the on-going challenge, committed to the health and safety of our College community.  We also acknowledge the student’s need to continue with the pursuit of their higher education.  We’re in a unique moment in human history where our choices are constrained, but history is on our side.”

With the rest of the semester now officially moved online, what do you foresee as the future of on-campus learning?

“There are no face-to-face courses being taught at this time, anywhere.  Recognizing this pandemic will eventually run its course, and society will create a vaccine, this is the moment higher education turned to remote learning, using asynchronous and synchronous methods for teaching.  Without attempting to move forward with online education, the risk is to stop out and delay – or forego – education as time continues to move forward.

We will at some point return to on-campus learning. Although this pandemic has definitely taught us the need to increase our ability to educate through an online approach, there will always be the need for direct, face-to-face human interaction. This is not only because this is how some of our faculty and students are stronger, but our College is much more than a degree. I have watched not only our classrooms transform, but our student wellness services as well. That is where students want to talk to someone, hear an actual voice, and no they are not in this alone.

So, although we have risen to the occasion to accommodate a no face-to-face period in time, we remain committed to bringing people back to campus as the comprehensive learning community.”

What has been the hardest part of this whole process?

“The challenge has been the speed of change, the information flow, and seeing the anxiety level build among so many across our College community.  We had to adapt quickly, and there wasn’t always consensus, even among the chief scientists, on where we are and how the pandemic would develop.  With a priority to maintain health and enable everyone to continue with their education, anxiety has rocketed to new heights, as people have had to adapt to forced change – in their education, their home, at their job – all the while hearing of the illness and loss of life globally.

As the economy has slowed, we are very concerned about increasing stress and anxiety on so many within our community.  The economy has reversed direction almost overnight.

As we’re feeling anxiety, worry or stress, I ask you to pause for a moment.  Check out the sky above and the sun’s rays illuminating your life. Remember that creativity and possibility, your noble purpose that you had in front of you when our semester began in January.  It’s still there.  Rekindle those thoughts, and that vision and where you’re headed on course through the College on life’s journey.

As my friend the late Bob Danzig would remind everyone, “Treasure the day. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a promise. Today is the day we have.”

What are we handling the best throughout this experience? The worst?

“The College community did an outstanding job pivoting to remote education in mere days.  Our faculty modified their courses.  Information Technology made sure the online software and hardware capabilities were upgraded.  We have had on-going professional development to refine our online teaching.  Student support services have been ramped up online and we continue to be flexible in striving to address the needs of all students, faculty, and staff.

As far as what are we handling that we struggle with, clearly it’s social isolation.  Humankind is made up of social beings.  We are meant to interact with one another, taking advantage of not only the words we use to communicate but also the body language and the subtle intonations that aren’t readily picked up Zooming among online gatherings.  This is all part of that unchartered territory that we talk about, as we literally moved our entire method of operating to this remote, virtual system.  Think of the history that we’re living right now.”

The college was set to host events such as the Honors Reception, Graduation, and theater productions. Is there any word on cancellations or rescheduling’s for these events?

“With the recent extension of social isolation and use of remote learning and operations, there are several events that we are not able to hold in the same fashion we always have. These ceremonial rites of passage are very important in celebrating the accomplishments of so many at this milestone in life. We are reviewing the schedule of events and looking for creative options to continue to recognize the hard work and successes of our students. Stay tuned; this is a work in progress.”

How did the college become a testing center for the Coronavirus?

“Simply put, we wanted to help our community. We worked with our partners at Cape Cod Healthcare and Barnstable County and supported their efforts as they utilized our prime location and space. We’ve also continued to help with the donation of Personal Protection Equipment from our Nursing, Dental Hygiene, and Science labs. Professor Bsharah’s labs 3D printers have been working to produce face shields, and several people from the College have been sewing facemasks.

A lot of people, students and staff alike, are feeling isolated and afraid. Is there anything you would like to say to comfort these people?

“These are stressful times for everyone. As you look around your neighborhood, you realize we are a community hidden inside our homes. We’re all still here, though, navigating the challenges as a community at a distance. Stay healthy, keep your distance, and wash your hands. We’re going to get through this. History is on our side. Think about what got you started on your 4Cs journey. That creativity and purpose remains and needs to be re-established prominently.”

How are you doing personally?

“This has been a major moment of a lifetime that seems to go on and on. I continue to have an on-going concern for everyone’s health at the College. Presidents pray a lot.

On the home front, it’s been a bummer. Two weeks ago, I was moving my son home from College when his Commencement date was postponed. A few days later, I was moving my daughter home as her summer position was canceled. Suddenly, the empty nest was full again and there’s a bit of unknown as to how long this last. We’ll get through this as we adjust our journey forward.”