The Oregon Institute of Technology and Clackamas Community College transition to online classes

COURTESY PHOTO - Oregon Institute of Technology classes will take place solely online.

While local school districts plan optional online lessons for students who are homebound — as a measure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus — local college classes are transitioning to the web with the hope of keeping students moving on the path toward graduation.

Earlier this week, the Spokesman chatted with representatives of Wilsonville's two collegiate campuses, Clackamas Community College and Oregon Institute of Technology, to learn about the changes they're implementing.

Oregon Tech

Oregon Tech, which is based in Klamath Falls but has a campus in Wilsonville, prides itself on providing a practical learning environment where students create things and mimic real-world scenarios rather than only regurgitating information from textbooks.

However, to comply with Gov. Kate Brown's recent order preventing in-person classes, much of this experience is being significantly reduced, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, the institute is moving online.

Oregon Tech extended spring break an extra week to give staff members time to rejigger curriculum to account for the changes. Saunders said teachers will likely use applications like Canvas, Zoom and Skype to engage with students.

"It's a big change for everyone but I think all the members of the campus community know it's an extraordinary time and we need to do anything we must do to maintain a safe environment for our students and that means social distancing and staying home," said Diane Saunders, a school communication and public affairs official.

For engineering students at the Wilsonville campus, this could mean the annual Student Project Symposium where students show off their inventions and projects is canceled. It could also mean students can't complete some required classes that include projects where working in the school's mechanical lab is a necessity. And for students training in emergency medical services, this could mean students not being able to perform important hands on learning like medical emergency simulations.

Not to mention, Saunders also said national competitions, like one where students build a canoe and then race it, have been canceled.

Saunders also said externship programs will continue or not based on the discretion of employers. Some areas of study like dental hygiene require students to complete an externship program to graduate.

In turn, Saunders said these circumstances could mean some students do not complete all of their requirements in time for graduation. However, she said they will let seniors graduate and then complete remaining requirements afterward. She also said students who aren't close to graduation are advised to load up on more hands-on classes after the virus passes and to focus on classes they can complete online now.

"If the heavy period of the virus is past us by the summer students would still be able to graduate but we might need them to catch up on externships," Saunders said.

In terms of the financial situation of the university, Saunders said the school has seen an uptick in enrollment in recent years and that administrators haven't yet noticed a decline in enrollment since coronavirus concerns came to the fore.

"We do rely on state funding as well as tuition and fees and other revenues. We're keeping a close eye on that and are hoping for the best in terms of the state (funding)," she said.

And despite their calling card of being a practical university with graduates who attain comparatively high salaries, Saunders said the switch to online will be relatively painless for many students.

"It's not a huge change for students of this generation as it would have been a couple generations ago or one generations ago," she said.

Clackamas Community College

As of Monday, the CCC campus in Wilsonville was not officially closed but was closed to the public. And, like Oregon Tech, most classes will be conducted online when school resumes April 6 while other classes were nixed entirely.

"The main reason we canceled the first week of class was to give instructors more time to get up and running," said Lori Hall, the school's executive director of college relations and marketing.

Teachers will conduct classes online via Zoom video conferencing and make other class-specific arrangements. For instance, students in the industry technology department will receive lab equipment and perform lab assignments at home.

"Instructors in the Industrial Technology Department are creating their own instructional videos, Khan-style online lectures, and tapping into commercial sites like Tooling-U in order to offer these traditionally hands-on labs in a remote setting," industrial technology instructor Mike Mattson said via email.

The school is even still conducting a basketball class online as well as cross-training, weight training, Zumba, yoga, and self defense using apps like Zoom and Moodle, though some physical education classes have been canceled.

"For some they will thrive in it (online learning) and others it might be challenging. It's hard to say and it depends on what kind of class you're taking," Hall said.

Some other classes that have been canceled include art classes like ceramics and many career technical education classes.

"If they're close to graduating and a class they need to graduate (is canceled) it could prevent them from graduating on time," Hall said "For others if it's an elective it might not have a huge impact."

To help disadvantaged students, the school is loaning out some laptops, creating designated outdoor WiFi hotspots and extending the scholarship deadline.

"Our overarching goals is to continue to provide a high quality education for students in a way that's equitable for everyone," Hall said. "We appreciate the community support as well as staff and faculty."

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