Student success in a pandemic environment


By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerCochise College is now several weeks into the fall semester, and some of the uncertainty about what to expect is behind us. The unknowns of the future continue to present challenges, but, true to form, Cochise College students are demonstrating their resilience and grit by accepting different, and varied, modalities in their learning journey.

Similarly, college faculty and staff are moving forward with a variety of efforts to provide the tools that make student success a reality. Despite the uncertainties, we are making the most of the situation by exploring and implementing the very best emerging ideas.

An earlier column alluded to Mega Convocation, a summer effort to provide learning opportunities for faculty who would soon be teaching in a different learning environment. Led by our academic support team, mega-convocation offered 98 sessions on 53 topics, plus eight strategy planning sessions. There were classes on how to use Zoom and Moodle, the college’s online learning communications hub. Faculty professional development topics covered online assessment, cheating, developing effective online instruction, financial aid, virtual reality, institutional research, the library and curriculum. Attendees included 84 full-time faculty, 67 associate faculty, nine dual-enrollment faculty and 22 staff.

Mega Convocation inspired Cochise College to enhance the level of ongoing training available, and this fall it will morph into the Cochise Convogent, a monthly series that in September focuses on engaging the online learner. Cochise Convogent will also include a book club opportunity and stress management techniques. Change can be hard, but we are moving forward into a brave new world of teaching and learning.

While faculty become more familiar with their new world, staff also seek to better serve students. The Student Success team includes advising and counseling, tutoring, testing, adult education, library services, the federally-funded TRiO program, and the faculty and staff who teach the Student Success Strategies course. Together they are looking at how learning outcomes can be improved and measured. The group works with an early alert system that prompts advisors to intervene when students need help. The team is also working on a persistence and retention plan, examining what a student’s first-year experience is like, and exploring ways to expand the high-impact learning and values instilled by the TRiO program and the Student Success Strategies class beyond those they currently serve.

Also new this semester is Virtual Cochise College Week, scheduled Oct. 19-22, from 6-7 p.m. daily. This event is open to anyone, with special attention to those considering attending college. Different topics will be covered each day, including a general overview of the college and sessions on the enrollment process, student success, financial aid and scholarships, the transfer path and workforce/industry training programs. Pre-registration is kindly requested at https://www.cochise.edu/virtualweek/.

Finally, we are interested in knowing your opinion about Cochise College and the value of higher education in general. A survey is available to members of the public at cochise.edu/survey. We look forward to receiving your responses before September 30.

Once again, exciting things are happening at Cochise College. Even a pandemic can’t keep us down!

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.