By Giana Pollock

Cape Cod Community College’s (4C’s) spring semester 2021 has been announced remote. Why was this decided? What are the expected reactions? How is this going to affect students and faculty? President John Cox, Professor Thomas Schaefer, and Administrative Assistant Cindy Pavlos, all have the answers.

There have been many different reactions from students and faculty with the news of remote learning for spring 2021, but first, why was remote learning ultimately decided for next semester? President John Cox says health and safety was the number one priority. “Our College remains laser-focused on health and safety, preoccupied with trying to walk the delicate balance between enabling students to continue forward with their education,” said Cox. “We were meeting daily with other Colleges” following the guidelines, and “the College community did a phenomenal transition to virtual learning.”

Cox goes on saying that the students of 4C’s continue to work diligently and go above and beyond for what was asked of them.  “I am very proud of our students, demonstrating their staying power,” said Cox, “ with so many unknowns; often challenged by technology at home and internet connectivity,” the students “rose to the occasion.” Needless to say, President Cox has high hopes for what the students at 4C’s will be achieving with remote classes throughout the spring semester.

 As many students know, the idea of remote learning was thought of in the middle of last spring semester, 2020. It was quickly decided after that for this current fall semester of 2020. Cox shows that he is proud of the urgency of the decision. “4C’s was one of the first colleges in the nation to announce its plan for Fall 2020. We also maintained our commitment to that plan, unlike many other universities” said Cox. The reason for urgency was for the sake of the students.

“Our timing in making the announcement was centered on allowing students to know 4C’s plan,” adding “a bit of clarity,” said Cox. This is the exact reason for the early notice for the spring 2021 semester as well. Cox knows the importance of keeping students up to date with any decisions on their learning, no matter what the reactions will be.

Students and faculty “share similar reactions recognizing the need for the decision, yet disappointment that we need to continue (remote learning)”, said Cox. Like Cox has noted, the health and safety of students and faculty is priority, and if remote learning is going to assure that, then remote learning is the best option until COVID-19 can be manageable.

As for Pavlos and Schaefer, their reactions are varied. With Pavlos remembering the original announcement of remote learning, she says she was simply “stunned” from the beginning, though it is clear to be the safest option at this time. Schaefer said that, though he expects a “mixed reaction” for the spring 2021 semester, he is hopeful of the overall outcome with not only students, but faculty.

“Many of the faculty are spending hours upon hours learning how to make this not only work, but create a thriving classroom experience,” Schaefer said. The most important thing, though, is the reciprocated “student enthusiasm” he, and his colleagues, are hoping to receive. “If we focus on the positives, then maybe we’ll emerge with a better overall understanding of how academia should look.”

 So far, though it is only the fall semester, Schaefer said he mostly enjoys instructing remote classes. He does, however, have certain things he misses from in-person classes. “I can’t help but miss the classroom and the ‘production’ of how I taught face-to-face,” said Schaefer. “One of my colleagues recently referenced the ‘theater of the classroom’ and I couldn’t agree more. I miss it, but I also cannot deny how much remote learning has engaged me as a professor.”

 Schaefer thinks remote learning really isn’t that bad. But, how is it affecting other faculty and students negatively and positively? Pavlos said that, in remembering the 2020 spring semester going remote, there were negative effects. “Some students reacted negatively to remote/online instruction in the spring, and stopped attending classes,” said Pavlos.

Schaefer would go on and add to this, saying that such negativity could cause 4C’s to feel less like the community it is. “I’m afraid that we will dive deeper into the difficulties we already faced with building community in our college,” said Schaefer. Both Schaefer and Cox included a shout-out to the Wellness Center, which is a great resource if any students find themselves having trouble dealing with remote learning, found here: https://www.capecod.edu/studentwellness/ for more information.

Though there are negative ways for remote learning to affect students and faculty, keeping a positive outlook will be better for everyone. “I’m hoping people will value their education more, each other more, [and] I’m hoping the experience will also reset student perspectives on money, student loans, [and] education costs,” said Schaefer. Cox even said to take advantage of the remote learning experience. “We don’t get a do-over,” said Cox.

This leads to the question, what types of students will benefit from remote learning and what students will have a more difficult time benefitting from this remote learning. Pavlos thinks it is simple, in that those who want to succeed, will succeed. “Organized and self-disciplined students” are going to achieve their remote learning goals, said Pavlos. Schaefer even says that, those who will succeed with remote learning, will be the students who might’ve struggled to succeed in the previous in-person learning environment.

Remote learning will benefit students who were “more reserved, found barriers, or simply needed more flexibility,” said Schaefer. “It might not be immediately felt, but those students who would have normally been quiet or shy will shine, here through Zoom.”

 Cox would agree with this, but he also added that anyone can benefit from remote learning. “Everyone potentially benefits,” said Cox. “For the students who have been more attentative to their studies,” or those who understand the importance, are bound to do well.

So, if any students question if they will benefit from remote learning, they need to know that, as long as they care about their education, they will gain the same knowledge, if not more, than they would’ve in the in-person classes.

“We, now, need to claim our education,” said Schaefer. Students need to be “prepared to engage. Silent microphones and no camera mean we aren’t able to even pretend we’re present and part of the class. This is the time for students to reach out and decide that they will take their education, and future, into their own hands.”

 As for the semesters after spring 2021, nothing is for sure regarding how they are going to look, especially considering all of this change was in such a short amount of time. “It is important to embrace virtual education, [and] expect to see virtual and hybrid education to remain a mainstay option” for students, said Cox.

With closing advice, Pavlos said that being prepared is key during remote classes. “Get set up with a schedule for studying and an appropriate place to be ‘in class’ with all technology required,” said Pavlos. Schaefer’s advice for remote learning is also simple – communication.

            “Take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of you rather than the heartache so readily available to us all,” said Schaefer.

President John Cox at the Autumn Feast, college photo

Administrative Assistant Cindy Pavlos