COVID-19 Calls for Pivoting Towards Supporting Partners and Students
Raise your hand if you know how to run a college in a global pandemic. No hands raised? Over the years, we have learned how to support students and partners during natural disasters, recessions and other trying times. But this, well, this is different; and quite frankly this is hard.
We, at the American College of Education (ACE), have been racking our brains to figure out what we should and need to do to support our partners and students during this unprecedented time. While we know we aren’t alone, we realize that we have many advantages that make us uniquely positioned to help. We are an online college and have a predominantly remote workforce. Thus, we have a strong foundation in online education and remote work. We also realize that many others are not as fortunate. We want to share ideas for supporting partners and students in case they help. While the exact approach we describe below may not be a perfect fit for your university, there are many ways we can all use our strengths to help during this challenging time.
ACE has a strong partnership strategy through which we work with K-12 schools, healthcare and other community organizations to support their stakeholders. Supporting partners is central to our B Corp philosophy and allows us to give back to communities in need. In the past, many of our activities related to partner support involved having physical presence. Knowing that our traditional “on-the-ground” presence is not an option, we developed the following alternatives to help our partners:
Webinars to Support Online Work
ACE launched a Partner Digital Toolbox series including free webinars offering our partners advice on how to lead and teach in online environments.
Realizing partners may be even more stretched in the professional development realm, ACE introduced full scholarship opportunities for our strongest partners. These scholarships allow recipients to take a micro-credential program at ACE at no cost to the student or partner institution.
Pulling on the strengths of our online workforce, ACE is adding blog entries to its website to help others on the topic of adapting to this “new normal.”
While our students have previously adapted to online learning as part of completing a program at ACE, they are still impacted by this pandemic. We have deployed the following strategies to help:
We realize our students are impacted financially by this pandemic. To help, ACE is offering COVID-19 Financial Hardship Scholarships for our students during the upcoming term. The goal is to ease some of the burden placed on these students, so they don’t need to choose between continuing their education and purchasing household necessities.
Many new students are struggling to access official documents from their colleges or places of employment. Additionally, many standardized tests are being cancelled. Thus, we are extending submission times of these documents and finding alternative solutions for documentation. We want our students to focus on their goals and are partnering directly with them to meet requirements.
Creative Assignment Approaches
As a college that serves those who serve, the majority of our students work in the fields of education and healthcare, which are highly impacted by this pandemic. This means many of our students are struggling to complete required field experiences. To support student success, we have adapted these experiences and created opportunities for virtual completion. Times like this require us to be creative—so we are!
Adapting to the “new normal” and supporting our partners and students hasn’t been easy in every instance. It has been hard to anticipate reactions to our new offerings and the level of communication needed. Although we pride ourselves on intentional, clear, and consistent communication, we have learned our students need more during this time–more reassurance, more direction and more support. For example, after receiving an initial wave of scholarship applications, we learned that we needed to clarify qualifying criteria and documentation requirements for the new scholarship opportunity. In these unusual times, we learned that we need to be attentive, overcommunicate, be patient, and continue thinking of new ways to offer support.
Editor’s note: This article was submitted on March 31, 2020.