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Hands-on classes planned for NWTC, but with changes

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – From mechanics to nurses to dental hygienists, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) is known for its hands-on learning.

COVID-19 put a monkey wrench in that way of learning, forcing the technical school to go completely online.

Now, the college looks toward fall, with the decision to welcome students back for in-person, on-campus instruction for some classes and with significant changes.

“Our entire college team is doing everything we can to ensure our students will continue to receive a high-quality, hands-on education during this pandemic,” said Aliesha Crowe, vice president of college advancement at NWTC. “The health and well-being of our NWTC community is our top priority. Decisions are based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and current recommendations for reopening higher education facilities. Students in our programs learn the skills needed to be successful by practicing in classrooms, labs and clinical sites.”

Crowe said the decision to resume in person classes continues to be an ongoing process and was made with input from staff, students and prospective students.

Hands-on and lab-based classes, including clinicals, will meet on campus for those portions of the class.

“Students come to NWTC because they want that hands-on, real-world experience,” Crowe said.

She said the frequency of in-person instruction will depend on the course.

Nursing student Karen Navas said she is looking forward to the return of in-person classes.

“This past spring semester, when everything went online, it was much more different, and a little more challenging for every student,” she said. “I definitely feel like I wasn’t the only one that was frustrated during this time. I will most definitely attend in-person classes because I benefit much more that way. But if it comes to the point where online has to become the alternative, well then we’ll get through it again like the first time.”

Most general education classes will be held online or in a blended format – a mix of in-person and remote learning.

“Remote learning may include web conferencing or other learning opportunities,” Crowe said. “Blended general education courses will meet a minimum of one day a week on campus.”

Shailynn Lee, a general education transfer student, said she is apprehensive about attending in-person classes not knowing what lies ahead with the virus, yet not thrilled with remote learning as she, like many others, struggle staying focused.

“Online classes aren’t really an option for me,” Lee said. “In my opinion, really, it’s too early to even decide if campus will be open for classes.”

Conor Smyth, director of strategic advancement for the Wisconsin Technical College System, said the blended offerings available to students before the pandemic provided colleges with a good foundation.

“Pre-pandemic, our colleges offered a mix of face-to-face and online instruction, just as they will in the fall,” Smyth said. “Because we were permitted to resume face-to-face instruction in certain programs this spring, with precautions, we feel better prepared to do that on a broader scale in the fall.”

Another significant change will be masks.

“Students, faculty and staff are required to wear a mask while on campus,” Crowe said.

Navas said she has no issue with wearing a mask and agrees it’s a “definite must” to help keep herself and others safe.

“I work at a hospital, so I’m surrounded by people at all times,” she said. “We wear masks throughout the whole shift, so wearing a mask is not a problem for me.”

As far as social distancing goes, Crowe said most labs on campus have plenty of space for separation.

“Classrooms and labs are being arranged to accommodate the minimum 6 feet physical distancing,” she said.

Access around campus will also be limited this fall with students being asked to only enter the building in which their class is being conducted, and leave campus after class.

Plexiglass will be added to the bookstore and other departments for the safety of both students and staff. The commons, computer labs, gym and Campus Buzz will remain closed. Access to the library will also be limited.
Crowe said these plans are all subject to change depending on health guidelines and recommendations.

In acknowledgement of the unknown, NWTC has launched No-Risk Enrollment – a new program where students can participate in classes this fall for one week with no financial risk.

“The program allows students to experience in-person, blended and online courses this fall to see if the way their course is offered suits them, with no financial risk for one week,” Crowe said. “We want students to know, if within the first week, NWTC is not right for you, just drop the course and you won’t owe anything.”

And it goes one step further.

“In addition, NWTC is also waiving the $30 application fee for anyone who applies before Aug. 1,” Crowe said.

For more information on the No-Risk Enrollment program, or more details on fall courses, visit nwtc.edu.

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