As you might imagine, moving an entire graduate center across town for geographic centralization is a mammoth undertaking under any circumstances. In the midst of a pandemic that is revolutionizing the way educational services are delivered, it was a prescription for chaos.
Instead, the move has been shockingly, commendably seamless.
For the Lowcountry Graduate Center, transitioning successfully to Trident Technical College has meant, more than anything else, getting the technology right. Due to courses being taught virtually, in class, and in hybrid formats at the LGC long before the nation discovered those benefits in March, it was critically important to outfit the space it uses at Trident Tech to accommodate a variety of needs.
The great news is that the staff at the LGC had a clear plan including instructional technology requirements, and Trident Tech couldn’t have been more accommodating. The result is classrooms with the latest technology for a smooth transition to the 2020 fall semester.
Trident Tech Makes the Technology Work
Margriet Wright, the Program Coordinator for the Charleston cohort of the Master’s in Social Work program at the University of South Carolina, has been teaching classes that have been reorganized for COVID-19 at the new facility. Whereas the program was offering in-person classes at separate facilities in North Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville last year, it is now hosting the classes in North Charleston this year and streaming them online to all regions of South Carolina.
Wright says the pivot has been remarkably effortless from the standpoint of students and faculty.
“Trident Technical College has been incredibly welcoming and [LGC director] Nancy [Muller] has done an amazing job helping us transition and creating space,” she said.
The classrooms designated for LGC space have been outfitted with new projectors, cameras, and microphones by the Trident Tech technical staff. Even better, tech support has responded swiftly to any hiccups that might occur.
“The troubleshooter in our classroom, Kevin Belt, is always making sure everything works,” said Shalamar Boyd, a student in her last year of the MSW program. “We had an issue in one class and he resolved it quickly.”
A New Location and a New Way of Teaching & Learning
The programs that are hosting classes at the Lowcountry Graduate Center have experienced two transitions in one: (a) the new locale and (b) the COVID-caused online provisions. UofSC’s Master of Social Work program has prioritized flexibility in order for students – many of whom are working professionals – can access the courses in any way that works for them.
Meaning students are being provided with a variety of access points for lectures, such as in-person and video conferencing; in addition to online tools to facilitate conversation for group learning and skills practice. The real-time pivot has been enabled by the versatility of the learning management software Blackboard® used by the UofSC.
Nonetheless, the change to e-learning is fraught with difficulties. Wright says she and other faculty are ever mindful of the effect of the changes on students.
“We can’t underestimate the challenges for some of our students who don’t have access to reliable and high-speed connectivity. Some of our students have learning [difficulties] and need to be in front of our professors,” she said. “We can’t be fooled that there aren’t some long-term impacts.”
Shalamar Boyd appreciates having the in-person option, particularly as Trident Tech is a more central location for her than the previous Paramount Drive location. Another big advantage to the current location at Trident Tech – Rivers Avenue.
“There are so many more food options,” she said.