OCCC is planning for more classes on campus in summer, fall

In the isolating haze of online classes and Zoom-manufactured camaraderie, Oklahoma City Community College may soon start to see its first glimpse of sobering light at the end of this distanced-learning tunnel.

OCCC administration has begun developing the blueprints for their plan to return classes back to campus incrementally, starting with the summer and fall semesters of 2021.

Interim President/ Provost Dr. Jeremy Thomas wore a smile that conveyed both pride and relief as he spoke the words that many within the OCCC community have been waiting on the edge of their seats to hear. 

“We will be back on campus,” Thomas announced in an interview with the Pioneer.

“Starting in the summer. The deans are working on that right now.”

To do this, the college plans to test an “A/B Flip” schedule incorporating software such as Zoom to connect the physical classrooms on campus to the students working remote.

“Students would probably come in on one day, Zoom the other day, then flip,” Thomas said.

Having classes this way should allow students the freedom to feel comfortable utilizing their campus again, while still minimizing their contact exposure.

Thomas said the money being used to purchase all of the new technology needed for these ‘Zoom rooms’ came from the CARES Act funding.

Inside the classroom, students would find their professor wearing a microphone and being followed by a camera. 

The classes will still be fully interactive, with a large TV in the back of the room showing everyone participating remotely, enabling students and the instructors to ask and answer questions. 

“We have 50 classrooms we’ve identified initially to put in the cameras and TVs and stuff like that for the Zoom, so that’s 10 per division,” Thomas said.

Administrators say if successful, this model could remain a permanent addition to the school’s structure and foster a more inclusive learning environment for students of all learning styles- even outside of COVID-19.

“I think it’s our way back in, and, let me say– it may just be the way we do it from now on,” Thomas said.

Going slowly in the transition back to on-campus learning is paramount, administrators said.

“We are returning. Very, very slowly, but we’re doing it,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Vincent Bridges said.

Bridges said he has been working closely with the deans as they’ve compiled a list of on-campus classes students can expect to see listed March 26 on the Portal. 

“Each dean was empowered to work with their faculty to determine a set number of courses, the right courses, that could be taught on campus, still using social distancing and masking,” Bridges said.

Starting with the summer semester, Bridges said in-person options will be offered for classes in Health Professions, as well as Science, Engineering and Math.

He said students can expect these in-person options to continue to increase slowly as college leaders observe how the schedule model is working. 

“We’re going to have quite a bit more in the fall in all divisions actually,” he said.

Bridges said he is confident OCCC is moving forward correctly and taking safety precautions necessary. 

“We’ll get there. It might not be as fast as everyone wants it to be, or as reckless as some of the others are doing- but you have to be extremely careful.”