News and Events

MHC stays connected through COVID-19

May 11, 2020

Unprecedented times called for creative solutions to stay connected and complete the semester, and Medicine Hat College (MHC) has stepped up to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From students to faculty to staff, we’ve all had to shift our thinking and adapt to a new way of learning, working and living,” says Kevin Shufflebotham, MHC’s president and CEO. “Medicine Hat College is committed to students and to the communities we serve, and we will continue to educate and engage our region, despite these extraordinary circumstances.”

Tara Williams, business administration instructor, says one of the most valuable things about a comprehensive community college (CCC) that has been critical in adapting and overcoming the recent adversity is the close connection faculty share with their students.

“With smaller class sizes, we are able to spend more one-on-one time with our students and get to know them very well. We know who to check in on, who may need more support, or who is doing just fine.”

It was this close connection to her students that allowed her to successfully overcome one of the biggest learning curves throughout this process, which she identifies as understanding the socio-economic status of some of the students, and working to accommodate as best she could.

“At first we didn’t realize how many students don’t have access to computers or cameras at home. CCC’s provide affordable, quality education and many students would be unable to attend post-secondary without access to the resources and support that colleges provide on campus,” explains Williams.

“When switching to online delivery, we couldn’t assume they had that capacity as it’s not an expectation for a face-to-face experience. It became evident that some students were struggling with the transition and we were able to work with them to provide the right support to be successful in completing their studies. It was important for every student to continue to receive the learning outcomes they were promised when the semester began.”

For Jessica Plattner, an instructor in the art & design program, maintaining that solid connection with her students was her main priority in transitioning to online delivery. That goal led her to create private Facebook groups, accessible only to the students enrolled in each class, so that they could each create an album to showcase and post photos of their work.

“I chose Facebook because it’s free, easy to use, familiar, and social. I did a survey ahead of time to see what platforms students were using and it turned out that they all had a Facebook account already,” explains Plattner.

“The student’s feedback was that they enjoyed using the platform because it allowed them to stay connected and was a casual way for them to comment on each other’s work as they would have been able to in the studio. Both of the classes wanted to keep the groups active now that the semester is complete and have continued to share other projects they’ve been working on.”

Plattner supported her students virtually through the transition to online delivery by providing tips and tutorials on how to document and take photos of their artwork at home to present it in the best possible way. She also had individual weekly check-ins with each student, as well as weekly video chats with her classes, which she mentions were not mandatory as everyone’s situation was different.

“Whoever showed up to the call was welcome. I would share my screen with the group and we would converse about the projects they’d been working on. It was nice to hear each other’s voices in real time,” says Plattner.

She adds that although Facebook would not be how she would run her classes online if required in the future, it was a temporary solution that worked well in the short term.

“I was so impressed with the student’s ability to cope with the rapid changes that occurred. They needed to move out of their on-campus studio with a day’s notice and figure out how to set up a whole studio at home, as well as continue with their studies in a whole new modality. Every single student rose to the occasion.”