‘McLennan Together’ will lead MCC into the fall

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, McLennan Community College is diligently planning for what will be a different kind of semester this fall. 

This new initiative, #McLennanTogether, focuses on opening MCC safely and efficiently this fall. MCC is using a phased approach in returning to campus based on federal, state, and local guidelines regarding public health. Leaders hope to have all employees back on campus on Aug. 3, with some flexibility. 

Courses that would normally use face-to-face instruction have become “blended” courses – a combination of both in-person and online instruction. The in-person format will use safety measures like face coverings, social distancing, and disinfectants. Online instruction includes secure lessons through videoconferencing software, including Zoom, and utilization of the learning management system, Brightspace, where students and teachers may interact and submit assignments. 

How does that look practically? 

Classes that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example, could include class meetings on Tuesdays and virtual sessions on Thursdays. This gives students the advantages of a physical classroom – direct access to professors and classmates – and the online classroom, which allows for flexibility, technological capabilities, and slowing the spread of COVID-19. Again, face coverings are vital to the success of this system and having students in classrooms. 

If the number of local cases of COVID-19 continues to increase at a dangerous rate, the college is preparing to again convert all courses to purely online formats. Communications with professors will be especially important this semester and even more so if courses must go completely online. 

Here are a few tips for success in blended courses:

  • Create a routine. Scheduling days around school and work can bring a sense of normalcy. Marking due dates, meetings, and other obligations can be done in your email account, phone calendar, or physical calendar. Sometimes, the easy step of jotting down a reminder is the difference between staying ahead or falling behind in a course. 
  • Use available resources. In her frequent communications, MCC President Johnette McKown has encouraged students to take advantage of the many resources available to them. Success coaches, Paulanne’s Pantry, the Counseling Center, the MCC Foundation, the Financial Aid office, and the library provide unique resources that students may access. 
  • Have a communication plan. Keeping in touch with professors and classmates in different formats will be pivotal this semester. Ask questions of professors and classmates through email and Brightspace and check student email account frequently for campus communications. 
  • Take breaks! These are difficult, unprecedented times for us all. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some deep breaths, go for a walk, call a friend or family member, or read a book for fun. 

One success story from the spring, after the abrupt conversion to online courses, came from Jamaal Greene, the assistant men’s basketball coach and a weightlifting instructor at MCC. He said the transition wasn’t always easy, but it was rewarding. The format of an interactive course like weightlifting benefits from in-person motivation. 

“What I like about those classes, and the students said the same thing – I did every workout with them,” Greene said. “When they were tired, I was tired. When they wanted to quit, I was able to push. When they went through misery, I went through misery with them, so that helped.” 

In place of that, he refamiliarized himself with Brightspace, and students completed new at-home workouts with little or no equipment. Greene said students measured heart rates and relayed their thoughts on each exercise. Creative solutions, with the guidance of MCC’s Center for Teaching and Learning, have been instrumental in completing work during these difficult times. 

Faculty and staff members were “comforting my anxieties of doing this, and they helped tremendously,” he said.  

Phillip Ericksen is marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

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