College technology leaders bracing for virtual fall semester

Western Technical College and UW-La Crosse officials say they are in a better place for online learning
School It Preps For Year

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The status quo of education is gone and the fall semester will look brand new for students. Two local colleges are getting set for classes that will move online.

Education leaders have to throughout everything they know about back to school. The fall semester will force everyone to adapt.

Western Technical College information technology director Joan Pierce is already trying something new.

“I have been at Western for 21 years and this is my first interview,” Pierce said before here interview with News 8 Now.

It’s not the first time technology has taken over education. This year is just requiring more technology than ever before.

“It’s definitely water we’ve never been in before,” Pierce said.

Online learning will take over the education platform this fall. It’s up to people like Pierce to get a system in place.

“We’ve purchases laptops for checkout or purchase,” Pierce said. “We’re working very closely with various areas on campus, student support areas to make sure we have the equipment available for the people that need it.”

UW-La Crosse professors are taking classes this summer. The only way to reach some students this fall is by technology some have never used.

“We have over 360 instructors that have signed up to take the training,” said Kristin Koepke, Director, Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning at UW-La Crosse.

Different courses require different resources.

“Individual instructors are learning different techniques and different approaches that kind of pair well with the technologies that we have available,” Koepke said.

Problems exist where there are new experiences. Both schools are ready for questions.

“All of our students have been communicated to in terms of what their class schedule looks like,” Koepke said.

Western has a website that offers instructions on setting up a home as a classroom. This site has several tutorials and education about technology students can use at home.

School leaders are also communicating in other ways like Youtube. Western is buying webcams for students so teachers can see faces. WIFI access is also expanding into the parking lots of the campus.

“In case students don’t have any internet access at home they can come to our campuses and actually get on the internet,” Pierce said.

This change won’t be easy.

“If we didn’t have Zoom we would not be able to be doing this,” Pierce said.

But at least the summer bought them time to make it work.

“Everybody’s got some energy that you just don’t know that you have until you’re put in a situation like this; that you have to respond and it’s got to work,” Pierce said. “I’m very very grateful for the people that I work with.”

Local colleges will offer some in-person classes this fall. There are social distancing measures in place for students who need to use resources on campus.