AUGUSTA, Maine – The presidents of Maine’s community colleges announced today that plans for fall instruction will balance the delivery of continuous, high-quality education with the need to protect the health and safety of their communities.
Although each college is creating its own fall plan, the presidents announced several elements that will be consistent at all seven colleges.
- Face-to-face classes will be limited to courses where hands-on instruction and assessment is essential to developing the skills required of the program.
- All courses that can be taught remotely will be delivered online, using new online tools and methods that allow for more robust, enriched learning experiences.
- Many employees will continue to work remotely.
- Residence halls at the five colleges that have them will be open, but with fewer students, including a one-person-per-bedroom limit. Students taking in-person classes will be given housing priority.
- Fall and winter athletic schedules will be suspended until at least January 2021.
- In emails to faculty, staff and students this morning, the college presidents shared campus-specific details. The common elements provide a framework for each college’s fall return plans, which will be finalized later this month.
“These measures allow us the most effective path for delivering and completing education and training our students desperately need in this economy, while upholding our commitment to protecting the health and safety of our students, employees, and the broader community,” said Maine Community College System (MCCS) President David Daigler.
“Our plans need to account for the fact that roughly 95 percent of our students commute between campus and their communities, many with jobs and families. We have taken prudent steps to minimize the threat of transmission of this highly communicable virus while affirming our commitment to delivering the skills our students need to compete in today’s economy,” Daigler said.
The colleges have also invested in building an enhanced online learning environment using Brightspace, a new learning management platform. Faculty are getting the time, support, and encouragement they need to use Brightspace to maximize innovation in delivering effective online teaching.
“The faculty gained insights last spring into how students can learn and develop core competencies,” said MCCS Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Janet Sortor. “That knowledge has fostered innovation in delivering effective online teaching, such as increased use of virtual labs and simulation software.”
Those tools have advantages for students, who can use them for additional review and practice, Sortor said.
Some face-to-face classes on campus will also include remote learning components, for lectures and other instruction that does not require face-to-face interactions.
“The incredible effort by our faculty and staff this spring and summer have made the community colleges more nimble and more responsive than ever,” Daigler said. “Given that 70 percent of our students are enrolled in career and occupational programs, this framework provides the greatest likelihood of uninterrupted instruction.”
The colleges are also adopting an app-based screening protocol that will be used systemwide. Testing protocols are still being developed, in consultation with state health officials.
The colleges’ academic calendars will not change, including observing normal holidays.
New campus rules will require everyone to follow common-sense safety protocols, such as wearing face coverings as directed and maintaining a safe physical distance from others.
“Our deepest commitment is to providing opportunities and skills to Maine people. This pandemic has made it clear that Maine’s community colleges are needed now more than ever,” Daigler said. “We have the programs, the faculty, the support system, and the low tuition and fees that put a great education in the hands of any Mainer who wants it.”
MCCS serves more than 27,000 people each year through degree programs, customized training, and credit and non-credit offerings. Its workforce numbers roughly 1,600.
Additional information, including links to the colleges’ COVID pages, can be found on the MCCS COVID-19 information page.
Maine’s community colleges have the lowest tuition and fees in New England, generous aid and offer nearly 300 degree and certificate options in over 140 occupational fields. More than 75 percent of those offerings are the only ones of their kind in the state.