In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNM-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) converted all spring semester classes to online formats in March. UNM-LA faculty who were teaching in face to face classes quickly converted to new teaching techniques to continue to provide their students the opportunity to complete courses with high quality instruction. Faculty who were experienced in online delivery served as mentors for those less experienced in the modality. Online classes continue to be offered for the summer semester.
UNM-LA Chancellor Cindy Rooney noted, “For the fall semester, we are carefully considering the requirements that may be needed to meet New Mexico guidelines for safety, and we plan to offer a schedule that allows students to start or continue their academic journey in a variety of modalities: online, hybrid, and face-to-face. We are committed to providing a high quality education at a reasonable cost, and we are making sure that our fall schedule will meet the needs of our student and that we are following recommended protocols. Given the possibility of disruptions to individuals or to the community, all faculty are developing contingency plans for absences and a potential transition of any class to a remote learning environment.”
The past spring semester provided an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to demonstrate resilience, initiative, and persistence. Students enrolled in face-to-face classes developed new organizational skills to schedule their time while meeting and completing assignments through an online platform. Those students taking online classes often encountered new challenges as access to public computers became limited. UNM-LA Student Services continued to work with students through various methods, including email, telephone and Zoom sessions. Instructors reached out to students to check in on how they were adapting, offering extra encouragement and support.
UNM-LA is currently providing the Summer session instruction online, and is reporting a higher than average enrollment. Director of Student Affairs Kathryn Vigil reflected, “There are always some visiting students from other colleges taking core classes at UNM-LA in the summer. Many have taken classes with us before and know they will get excellent instruction at a very reasonable cost. We have heard from some that they have more flexibility this summer and are taking advantage of the opportunity to get ahead.”
Currently, the UNM-LA campus continues in a remote operations mode. A few essential staff are on campus, and a phased in, prioritized approach is being used for other functions to return to campus. In preparation for when the New Mexico Department of Health allows universities to resume face-to-face classes, UNM is identifying a few classes that will be the first to return to campus. Dean of Instruction Dr. Sharon Hurley commented, “We hope that we will be able to offer a few limited face-to-face classes during the second half of summer session or in the early fall, particularly in areas where the hands-on instruction is a critical component and we can facilitate small class sizes.”
Hurley continued, “Fall is currently scheduled as a mix of online and face-to-face classes, but we continue to assess the situation and be prepared to make any adjustments recommended. We hope to announce revised plans to the schedule later this month.”
“Students have different needs, different learning styles, and technologically, there are many differences to consider,” continued Dr. Rooney. “Some students live where internet reception is very limited, and some do not have their own computers. We have a team of talented individuals working on a plan to re-open campus and discussing various proposals for the fall semester. We are committed to providing a high quality education at a reasonable cost, and we are making sure that our fall schedule will meet the needs of our student and that we are following recommended protocols. During this pandemic, we are consistently reminded that plans are in pencil, and not etched in stone.”
UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. More information about UNM-LA is available at losalamos.unm.edu.
Photograph by Sandra Molina: Laura Dominguez found that setting up a solid routine made the transition to studying at home much easier. “I have younger siblings around, so I had to find a place to study without interruption,” she said. “Mainly, I miss going to work and socializing with my peers.”
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