SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As colleges across the country transition to all online classes, students with a hands-on major are having to adjust.
This hasn’t been easy for some students at Ozarks Technical Community College.
It has been especially inconvenient for students who have bad WiFi at home and those whose degrees require in-person labs.
Junior Erika Bradley is in her first year of her occupational therapy assistant major.
“What is going to be most affected right now is our labs because we have those every other week on different days every other week,” Bradley said. “And then we have our clinicals, I still had some scheduled for the rest of the semester.”
Which got postponed.
“In order for us to graduate, and be able to get our license, once we graduate, we have to have a certain amount of clinical hours,” Bradley said. “By not being able to do those clinicals, it can probably have an effect on how soon we are able to get our licenses.”
OTC Spokesperson Mark Miller says he understands why this might upset some students.
“We don’t want to shortchange our students and we really don’t want to shortchange the people who are going to employ them,” Miller said. “We don’t want to turn out nurses who don’t know everything that it takes to be a nurse, and we don’t want to turn out welders who don’t know how to weld.”
Sophomore Abby Fuhr’s major is an associate of arts, a general transfer degree. She said she is struggling with online classes.
“Where I’m at, our WiFi is not very stable,” Fuhr said. “So being able to get to class is a challenge.”
Fortunately for Fuhr, OTC is offering a solution.
“We’ve opened up our computer labs at every one of our locations,” Miller said. “We’ll have as much social distancing as we can have and we’re stepping up our cleaning in all of our computer labs.”
Fuhr also has another concern.
“I paid the price for in-person classes that I’m not receiving,” Fuhr said.
Miller said he wants students like her to give online classes a chance.
“There’s only a month left, a little more than a month left in the semester,” Miller said. “Do your best. Our faculty is not going to penalize you because we’ve had to move from in-person classes to online classes.”
Faculty have even been instructed not to.
“Our Provost, the chief academic officer has sent a message to our teachers,” Miller said. “The message is to be very forgiving with our students. What we’re at now is not about the grade. It’s about getting our students to know what they need to know to move on in their education.”
Most of OTC’s Gen-Eds have already been online for a while.
For healthcare students like Bradley, OTC is working with providers to figure out ways to resume clinicals.
This is an evolving situation, and Miller says the school is prioritizing the safety of its students.