Vermont State Colleges System works to expand hybrid learning model

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 4:53 PM EDT
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JOHNSON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the Vermont State Colleges System schools transition into the Vermont State University, courses are changing. This means some classes will be offered to students both in person and remotely.

This is nothing new for the Northern Vermont University campuses in Johnson and Lyndon; they have been using an in-person and remote learning model for years.

“I’ve actually taken classes like this since I was a freshman. It has been very beneficial,” said Hannah Angolano, a junior at NVU Johnson.

Her differential equations class, taught by Greg Petrics, is in person in Johnson but students from other campuses take part remotely.

Angolano tunes in remotely when she cannot make it to campus.

“You don’t get as much interaction online, but you still get more than you would in a typical online class because you are seeing people in the classroom. It’s not recorded lectures,” Angolano said.

This semester, three of Petrics’ classes are hybrid and two are purely remote. He will have students in Lyndon, Johnson and Castleton. Starting in the spring, Vermont Tech students in Randolph and Williston can participate, too.

“I just treat them as if they are people who I am interacting with as if they were here,” Petrics said.

The associate professor of mathematics and data science has used this system for a few years, but since the pandemic, technology has improved. All of these classes are recorded so if something comes up, students can watch later. That flexibility also helps nontraditional students who tend to have jobs and/or families.

“It gets me up out of bed in the morning to come to work to produce these classes, which are extra work on my side, but I am glad to do it because I have seen how much it has opened the door for people to be able to take coursework and improve their skillsets,” Petrics said.

Alyssa Crean is a senior at Castleton University. The course she is taking with Petrics is entirely remote.

“Had this not been possible, I believe I would have had to wait another semester to take senior seminar,” Crean said.

Crean says in that class, she knows only two other students from Castleton. The rest are from other campuses.

“I don’t really know the other students and I haven’t tried to reach out to them, but they just feel like strangers. It’s harder to communicate and want to build any kind of friendship or relationship with someone that you’ve never met in person,” Crean said.

To students on the fence about remote learning Crean’s advice is to have an open mind.

“You will learn,” she said, “you just have to be open to an adjustment.”

That adjustment will continue as the schools work to become the Vermont State University.

Faculty from all campuses are creating variations of majors to rework courses offered by the colleges.

“Two-thirds of our programs have now been redesigned as programs that will expand access for students across the state and create more flexibility and more seamless educational experience,” said Yasmine Ziesler, the chief academic officer for VSCS.

“It’s been really great work and I’m really excited about what we’re putting together,” Petrics said.

The final steps are teacher review, finalizing technology plans to support the new approach, and then training professors and creating a student orientation.

Ziesler says everything should be in place by July 2023.

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