Community college educators train to support vulnerable students during virtual learning

Posted at 3:37 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 17:37:39-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — Teachers are becoming students in preparation for a new virtual school year.

The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is working to help students be successful by training teachers to successfully lead instruction in the digital space.

“They know how to teach in a classroom, and now we're asking them to do something else they're concerned they don't have the skillset for,” said Sheri Prupis, director of teaching and learning technologies.

VCCS says many community college students are already educationally, economically or socially disadvantaged and will need more support.

“If they come in and don't find that they feel supported, then they're much more likely to leave us. And once you lose a student, it's very hard to ever get that student back,” said Terri Milroy, VCCS vice chair of e-learning and educational technology committee.

The four-day boot camp encourages professors to create strong lines of communication and provide feedback to help students improve.

“Engaging students in their learning is incredibly important because the number one reason students drop community college classes is because they don't feel engaged or they don't feel seen in their course,” Milroy said.

VCCS encourages teachers to use small group projects and peer discussion boards to help students feel connected to classmates virtually.

“A lack of peer support is one thing that is going to negatively impact the mental and emotional health of our students as well,” Milroy said. “So we want to make sure that they feel like they have a group to which they belong.”

Over 6,000 faculty and staff have completed training in time for the new school year — a promising sign that social distancing won’t became an educational obstacle.

“It's really been an opportunity for them to reimagine teaching and learning,” Prupis said. “Several of them are changing how they teach in transformative ways that they will keep when they go back to the physical classroom.”