How College of DuPage is preparing for fall term

This past spring, a worldwide pandemic changed our lives. How we now work, learn and relax look nothing like they did just a few months ago.

The impact on education has been enormous. Our initial decisions regarding instruction were based upon keeping students, faculty and staff safe.

In a short period of time, College of DuPage converted all of our operations — from academic delivery to support functions — to an online environment so students could maintain momentum as they moved toward course completion.

Based upon information at that time, we expected remote operations to be short-term. After a few weeks, it became clear this would not be the case.

As stay-at-home orders were extended, we made the difficult decision to complete our spring term online. It was not an ideal situation, but I applaud our students for demonstrating their ability to work through this and succeed.

To celebrate our proud graduates, the college's first virtual commencement in June attracted more than 5,600 viewers to the livestream and more than 17,000 viewers in the days that followed.

During the spring, we made another difficult decision to offer summer instruction online. This move has been highly successful as well — bringing a slight increase in enrollment. Also, a small contingent of spring students returned to campus to complete laboratory and other work that could not be accomplished during the regular semester.

Uncertainty regarding COVID-19 still remains as we look ahead. Schools at all levels are making tough decisions on a daily basis and grappling with effective social distancing protocols, remote learning options and other pressing issues. College of DuPage, like most community colleges, does not house students on campus, which allows us to truly focus on instruction.

At the same time, a portion of our programming relies on lab spaces designed for hands-on, in-person learning.

As I have done since the pandemic took hold, I work closely with our board of trustees, colleagues at other institutions, the Illinois Community College Board and our own administrators, faculty and staff as we determine best courses of action.

In March, we had a very short window in order to pivot to remote learning. In preparing for the fall 2020 semester, we could carefully and thoughtfully examine our fall options and spent considerable time mapping out our plan.

Our decision for fall is to deliver curriculum online and through hybrid courses, the latter limited to offerings where learning objectives cannot be achieved entirely online. The goal is to minimize the density of individuals on campus, making it safe for those students and essential employees — as designated by an executive order of the Illinois governor — who must come to campus.

We are confident the fall semester will maintain the high quality of our curriculum through a plan that emphasizes safety, flexibility and ingenuity. As always, this curriculum is taught by accomplished faculty members with advanced degrees and real-world experiences who will help students achieve their goals in any format.

Do not postpone college plans because of COVID-19. Students can complete general education requirements at COD with the confidence that earned credits will seamlessly transfer when they transition to four-year institutions.

For many programs, innovative transfer agreements are in place so students know what courses to take in preparation for the next step in their educational journey.

For students completing their education at COD, the options are plentiful and the completed coursework will provide the proper training to immediately enter the workforce.

The college offers a wide range of programs leading to certificates and associate degrees in applied sciences that develop skills valued by area employers.

Although the pandemic will continue to impact our lives likely through the rest of the year, please remember that College of DuPage is always here to help. Now more than ever before, we want to make sure your educational and career goals are not put on hold.

I thank our faculty for their enormous effort in instructing our students and finding ways to provide support to both students and each other during the pandemic. Our staff continues to be creative in helping students through circumstances that are unprecedented. Together, we are navigating through these challenges and all will succeed.

• Brian Caputo is the president of the College of DuPage.

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